SC Raps Govt, Says Health Of Citizens More Important Than Health Of Airlines

Apex Court Allows Air India To Fly With Middle Seats Occupied Only Till June 6

New Delhi: While granting Air India permission to operate special international flights with middle seats occupied only till June 6, the Supreme Court observed on Monday that the government should be worried about health of citizens more than the health of commercial airlines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is common sense that maintaining social distancing is important. Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, what about inside aircrafts,” Chief Justice SA Bobde said during an urgent sitting of the Supreme Court, through video-conferencing, on Monday despite it being a public holiday to mark Eid.

“You should be worried about health of citizens, not the health of commercial airlines,” the bench, also comprising AS Bopanna and Hirshikesh Roy, told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Centre.

Air India has been operating the ‘Vande Bharat’ flights since May 7 to evacuate Indians stranded in different countries due to the coronavirus-induced shutdowns.

Air India pilot Deven Yogesh Kanani had approached the Bombay High Court, saying that a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) circular – specifying that middle seats be kept vacant — was not being followed by Air India for the special flights.

Air India had argued in the High Court that the DGCA order had been superseded by the Central government’s recent lockdown guidelines. The High Court had passed an interim order against selling middle seats on aeroplanes.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, speaking for Air India and the government, told the Supreme Court that the best practice is testing and quarantine, “not seat difference.”

The apex court’s remarks were only regarding international flights, and raised questions about domestic flights which resumed operations on Monday with all seats occupied.


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