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Punish air passengers who don’t wear masks, put them on no-fly list: Delhi High Court to DGCA

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The Delhi High Court on Friday was of the view that for effective implementation of Covid-19 protocol, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) should issue separate binding guidelines to authorize the staff at airports and in the aircraft to take strict action against passengers and others violating masking and hand hygiene norms.

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta was dealing with a suo motu case initiated last year on the experience of an “alarming situation” by a Delhi High Court judge on an Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi, wherein it was noticed that there was a stubborn reluctance among a few passengers to wear their masks properly within the flight and at the airport premises.

Pursuant thereto, the DGCA issued necessary guidelines to ensure strict compliance of Covid-19 protocols during air travel and to take action against “unruly” passengers who refuse to comply with the said directives.

During the course of hearing today, Advocate Anjana Gosain, representing the Central Government, informed the Bench that the Central Government, in May this year, issued a circular reviewing the Covid-19 guidelines for air travel wherein it has been reiterated that the use of mask and maintenance of hand hygiene at airports and in aircraft is to be continued. She submitted that the government is strictly implementing the Covid-19 protocol put in place.

At this juncture, the Bench orally remarked  that the guidelines have always been in operation, but the problem lies with the practical compliance of the directives. “Implementation is always a problem. When it comes to implementation, we falter. Tell your flight persons to implement these strictly and authorize them to take strict action against passengers who are not doing so. You need to have a policy for fining people with heavy fines,” Justice Sanghi said, while noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has still not abated and keeps springing up every now and then, for which purpose strict compliance of such directives is necessary.

“It is noticed that very often the norms are not implemented on the ground with the seriousness with which they are framed. It is therefore essential for the respondents to ensure that the implementation on the ground is effective. For this purpose, we are of the view that DGCA should issue separate binding guidelines to all airlines to authorize the staff at the airports and in the aircraft to take strict action against passengers and others who violate the masking and hand hygiene norms. All such persons who are found to be violating said norms should be booked and fined and they should be placed in the “No-Fly” list,” said the Court.

It added thus:
“In our view, it is essential to introduce a sufficient deterrence to ensure compliance of the norms.”

The respondents are directed to file an Action Taken Report before the next date of hearing. The matter will next be heard on July 18.

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