New Delhi: Alarmed at the sight of air passengers either not wearing masks or not wearing them properly, a Delhi High Court judge took suo motu cognisance of the situation and issued guidelines for immediate compliance, NDTV reported.
Accordingly, the court issued guidelines to all domestic airlines and DGCA for strict compliance, including penal action for offenders and periodical checks of the aircraft.
The high court, in its order passed on Monday, said it was constrained to pass the order because of an alarming situation which was witnessed by the judge, Justice C Hari Shankar himself during the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5.
He noticed that, though all the passengers had worn masks, many had worn it below their chin and were exhibiting a stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly, the report added.
“This behaviour was seen not only in the bus transporting the passengers from the airport to the flight but also within the flight itself. It was only on repeated entreaties made (by me) to the offending passengers that they condescended to wear their masks properly. On the cabin crew being questioned in this regard, they stated that they had directed all the passengers to wear masks, but were helpless in case they did not comply,” the judge was quoted as saying.
The court said a situation when the country is seeing a resurgence of COVID-2019 cases, after they had shown signs of ebbing, is completely unconscionable.
“Passengers in a flight are in a closed air-conditioned environment, and, even if one of the passengers suffers from COVID-19, the effect on other passengers could be cataclysmic. It is a matter of common knowledge that being within arm’s length distance of a COVID-19 carrier, even if he is asymptomatic and is merely speaking, is more than sufficient to transmit the virus,” it said.
- The in-flight crew to carry out periodical checks of the aircraft to ensure that passengers are complying with the protocol, especially regarding wearing masks.
- Masks to be worn as directed by governmental instructions, covering the nose and mouth, and not worn merely covering the mouth or below the chin.
- If any passenger is unwilling to follow this protocol prior to the flight taking off, he or she should be offloaded without delay.
- If despite being reminded, he or she refuses to follow the protocol, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DGCA or Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, including placing him or her on a ”no-fly” regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period.
- DGCA to prominently reflect on its website instructions containing the guidelines and protocols to be followed by passengers and in-flight crew in domestic flights.
- Airlines to ensure that written instructions regarding the protocol to be followed by passengers in flight, including the measures that could be taken against them on failure to follow it, are provided to the passengers along with the boarding pass.
- The in-flight announcements to be modified to include a cautionary word regarding the penal action that could be taken against them in the event of default.
- To ensure compliance, DGCA to send random observers on flights, without prior information, who would check to ensure that the COVID-19 protocols are followed in flight.
- DGCA to permit relaxation from wearing masks in exceptional cases only after evaluating the necessity of travelling.