The Bombay High Court on Friday has passed the interim order directing the flight operators to allow the passengers to occupy the middle seat strictly in compliance with the Circular dated 31st May, 2020 and the applicable SOPs / circulars / guidelines issued from time to time by the concerned authorities.
A Division bench of Bombay High Court comprised of Justice Surendra P. Tavade and Justice S.J. Kathwalla heard the matter, wherein they said that arguments with regard to the Interim Application stand concluded and the same is reserved for orders.
On the Last date of hearing, the Bombay High Court had sought clarification from the Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of the Secretary, Civil Aviation as to whether by a mere touch of a person carrying COVID-19 virus, the virus can be transmitted to the person so touched.
During the course hearing, the respondents including DGCA, other airlines and Union of India through Ministry of Civil Aviation had emphasised on the minutes of the meeting of the Expert Committee held on 26th May, 2020, under the Chairmanship of the Secretary, Civil Aviation, to review and further strengthen the public health related protocols of air travel.
On 31st May, 2020, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued directions or the Airlines in which it was mentioned that “if middle seat/ seat between two passengers is occupied due to passenger load, then additional protective equipment like “wrap around gown” (Ministry of Textiles approved standards) will be provided to the individual occupying the intervening seat in addition to the three-layer face mask and face shield”.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had allowed Air India to operate international flights with occupancy in middle seats for 10 days. The courts direction were passed on a petition filed by the Centre and Air India after Bombay high court questioned why the airline was not keeping the middle seats vacant in international flights.
“Air India shall be allowed to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats occupied for ten days: The Chief Justice of India S A Bobde had said “you should be worried about the health of the citizens not about the health of a commercial airline.”
Read the order here;pdf_upload-375974
-India Legal Bureau