News By/Courtesy: Ayush Garg | 25 May 2020 20:41pm IST


  • “Air India shall be allowed to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats booking for next 10 days,” Chief Justice of India
  • Supreme Court allowed national carrier Air India to operate international flight service with middle seat booking.
  • SC refused to stay or quash the Bombay HC order directing for middle seats to be kept vacant in international flights.

The Supreme Court has given some relief to Air India given the booked tickets and difficulties of Indians stranded abroad amid the Corona epidemic. The court has allowed Air India to seat passengers on the middle seat in non-schedule flights till 6 June.  The SC refused to stay or quash the Bombay HC order directing for middle seats to be kept vacant in international flights. SC, in turn, has remanded the issue back to the Bombay HC while directing it to arrive at a “prima facie finding regarding the safety and health of the passengers qua the Covid-19 virus”, irrespective of whether the flight is scheduled or unscheduled.
 The Supreme Court has made it clear in the order that the High Court can decide on non-schedule or schedule flights given the health of the people in the corona epidemic. The High Court is scheduled to hear the case on 2 June. Apart from this, a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna, and Hrishikesh Rai, while hearing in the Supreme Court, has asked the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to keep public health and safety in mind instead of commercial interests. It is free to make changes to the rules if it falls. This case is related to bringing back stranded Indians abroad.
 The Bombay High Court had ordered the vacant center seat vacant to maintain social distancing in flights bringing back Indians from abroad because of the Corona infection. This order was challenged in the Supreme Court by Air India and the Government of India. An urgent hearing was sought by the government and Air India, citing the agency, on which the court heard the matter on Monday on the day of Eid and slightly amended the order of the High Court. Although the Supreme Court was not very keen to allow Air India to seat passengers in the middle seat. The Supreme Court has said in its order that in general it is not willing to interfere with the interim orders of the lower courts.
But Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Air India, says that the Indians stranded abroad who have booked tickets with the High Court order will be in a lot of trouble. They will have all kinds of problems from stopping at the foreign airport to money etc. Especially those people who are traveling with family, those members who are passengers of the middle seat will be out. The bench said that because of this situation, Air India will be allowed to seat passengers in the middle seat till 6 June in non scheduled flights. That is, the middle seat has to be left empty. The Supreme Court, while sending the case back to the High Court, has requested that because of the circumstances, it should take a further decision in the case and also issue an interim order if it is necessary. The main case is scheduled to be heard on 2 June in the High Court. Earlier during the hearing, Mehta opposed the High Court's order, stating that the circular which the High Court has ordered based on the domestic flights before the Corona lockdown.
 Mehta said that now experts believe that due to the technology of ventilation in the airplane, HPCA system, there is no need to keep the middle seat empty. On this, the Chief Justice said that when the government talks about physical distance, then it will not be dangerous to sit shoulder to shoulder. SG said that anyway it is necessary to have seven days of institutional quarantine and seven days quarantine at home. The bench said that you are appearing for both the Central Government and Air India. Mehta said yes. Both are the same. The bench said no. You are just stating problems. However, the court later granted some relief to Air India.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 25 May 2020 21:38pm IST

Tags : Supreme Court, Flights , Air India

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