Thursday, July 02, 2020

Repatriation flights: Centre tells HC that there is no discrimination towards southern states

Kochi: Central government on Wednesday informed Kerala high court that it cannot ensure that domestic passengers are not allowed entry into flights in which expatriates are returning to their home state.
The submission by the central government was made before justice Anu Sivaraman in response to a petition (WP-C No. 12579/2020) filed through advocate Anitha Mathai Muthirenthy. Passengers allowed on Vande Bharat Mission flights now belong to vulnerable groups, such as senior citizens, severely-ill persons, and babies, the petition had said.
During the hearing on Wednesday, a counsel representing the central government submitted that expatriates returning on Vande Bharat Mission flights may have to get down and board another flight to their home state, depending on the route. Immigration and customs clearance will be done at the airport in the state, provided it is an international airport, the counsel submitted. “So, we cannot assure that there will not be disembarkation of the petitioner or others or that there will not be other passengers who are allowed to enter into the plane,” the counsel representing the central government said.
Flights to other states are also operated like this, the central government counsel (CGC) said, citing example of a flight to Jaipur from Ukraine, which lands at Delhi and then proceeds to Jaipur. It is not that flights to Kerala only or South India are being discriminated, the counsel said. He also added that there are cases where flights come to Kochi and then go to Tamil Nadu. The counsel also submitted that it is Air India that has to provide the information regarding need of disembarkation in between.
However, advocate Ramola Nayanpally, who represented Air India at the hearing, submitted that there was a flight that connected through Delhi on May 19 during the second phase of Vande Bharat Mission, but passengers did not have to alight at Delhi. The same procedure can be followed in the upcoming flights in phase four also, she submitted. The CGC intervened and said it has to be considered on a case-to-case basis.
Air India’s counsel further submitted that it only provides ticketing facilities and crew for the Vade Bharat Mission. All operational and other requirements are as per the directions of the ministry. Air India does not have any control over where the flights go, whether the passengers have to disembark in between, or whether persons can alight. It is all at the instance of the ministry and Air India does not have the power to take a call as it is operated for this scheme. So it has to be only as per what is instructed to Air India, the counsel submitted.
The CGC reiterated that it is Air India that has to answer whether passengers from Mumbai can board the flight carrying the expatriates. The court pointed out that it is not a domestic flight but a flight on central government’s scheme.
02/07/20 Times of India
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