New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and others on a plea that sought direction to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and all airline companies to frame mandatory standard operating procedure (SoP) and zero tolerance policy to deal with unruly behaviour of the passengers on board aircraft.
The notices have been issued on a plea filed by a 72-year-old woman, who was urinated upon in a New York-Delhi Air India flight last November allegedly by an inebriated passenger.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala posted the matter for hearing in July.
The victim in urination case, Hema Rajaraman sought direction that the DGCA to include in the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) as an explicit zero-tolerance policy with respect to “unruly and disruptive behaviour”, which would mandate reporting to it and to law enforcement, failing which action would be taken against the airlines in all cases.
In the plea, she said that the Respondent No.2 (DGCA) be directed to consider “drunkenness” or “inebriation” on its own as unruly/disruptive behaviour on an aircraft in accordance with the CAR, dated May 2017. “Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA to solicit the SoPs and the operations manuals as required under the law from the airline companies laying down procedures for handling unruly/ disruptive behaviour in airports and on aircraft, and to ensure that the same is in compliance with the DGCA norms,” the plea added.
It may be noted that Shankar Mishra, who was accused of peeing on the elderly woman in the business class of Air India flight, was arrested from Bengaluru on January 6 for the incident of November 26, 2022. Mishra, however, was granted bail later.
In the plea, Rajaraman contended that the cabin crew “facilitated” the handing over of her mobile phone number to the man in order for him to “reimburse the cost of shoes, dry-cleaning, etc”. She was made to sit on the “very same seat that was wet and smelled of urine”, the plea added.
The victim claimed that her suffering got compounded when the crew coerced her to enter into a settlement with the passenger who urinated on her. She continues to deal with the trauma of the incident, the plea mentioned.
“The ministry of civil aviation and the DGCA shall be directed to “set guidelines on alcohol policy on international flights of Indian carriers to protect passengers and airline staff, including setting limits on the quantity of alcohol served, without any discrimination based on the class of travel,” the plea added.
Along with it the plea also sought direction to the DGCA to amend its passenger charter to include the rights and recourse for passengers subject to any sort of abuse by staff passengers, which should include redressal mechanisms for victims via an ombudsman and also parameters of compensation.
Referring the statics laid in the Rajya Sabha early this year, the petitioner claimed that it showed only 63 unruly passengers were put on the ‘No Fly’ lists, even though numerous such incidents have taken place in the past.
“With the world’s third highest air traffic, and with 132 airports, India needs to ensure that its passengers, both domestic and foreign can travel with a minimum of safety and security. Particularly with 150 million senior citizens forming a sizeable vulnerable group, positive steps need to be taken to make flying safe,” the petition said, while claiming that media reports on the incident concerning her were “full of conjectures and surmises”.