Friday, June 03, 2022

COVID-19: HC calls for strict action against air passengers violating masking, hygiene norms

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday called for strict action against those found violating masking and hand hygiene norms at airports and in aircraft, observing that the COVID-19 pandemic has not abated and keeps springing up its ugly head.

The high court said all such persons, who are found to be violating these norms, should be booked and fined and they should be placed on the no-fly list and added that it is essential to introduce sufficient deterrence to enforce compliance of norms.

It said it is noticed that very often the norms are not implemented on the ground with the seriousness with which they are framed and therefore, it is essential for the authorities, including Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ensure that the implementation on the ground is effected properly.

“For this purpose, we are of the view that the DGCA should give separate binding directions to all airlines to authorise the staff at airports and in aircraft, including air hostesses, captains, pilots and others to take strict action against passengers and others who violate the masking and hand hygiene norms,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta said.

The court noted the submission of DGCA’s advocate Anjana Gosain, who herself is inflicted with COVID-19 and appeared through video conferencing, that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued another an order on May 10, calling for strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocol.

She said the authorities are seriously implementing norms regarding masking at airports and in aircraft by all concerned.

“The issuance of said order, in our view, is the right step since the pandemic has not abated and keeps springing up its ugly head,” the bench said, adding that guidelines are always in place and it is the practical compliance which becomes a problem and “we falter”.

It said let necessary steps be taken and further action taken report be placed before the court and listed the matter for further hearing on July 18.

The court’s order came in a PIL, registered on the experience of a sitting judge of the high court while travelling by a domestic flight during the pandemic.

Justice C Hari Shankar had on March 8, 2021, taken suo motu cognisance of the situation after witnessing passengers not wearing masks properly during transportation from airport to the flight and their stubborn reluctance to wear mask properly.

The court, which had issued various guidelines to the DGCA and airlines for immediate compliance, had said it was constrained to pass the order because of an alarming situation which was witnessed by the judge himself during an Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5, 2021.

During the hearing, the court observed that people may not wear N-95 masks in flights but they must at least wear a surgical mask as the idea is to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Doctors also wear surgical mask the whole day, the bench said, adding that only at the time of meals the passengers can take off the mask and the moment they finish their meals, they have to wear it again.

03/06/22 PTI/Print

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