Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aviation regulator, on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that it is keeping a strict vigil on the non-compliance of Covid-19 protocols on flights.
DGCA’s response came after the court took suo motu cognizance of the fact that passengers in an Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5 wore masks below their chin and showed a stubborn reluctance to wear them properly.
“We are keeping strict vigil. Surprise checks would be carried out. Four people on way to Jammu were declared unruly passengers for not complying with Covid-19 norms,” Advocate Anjana Gosain appearing for the DGCA told the court.
Counsel for the Air India informed that Standard Operating Procedures (SoP) have been issued, while Gosain said that private airlines should also issue such SoPs. “It was most needed step,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma said.
To this, the court said that the guidelines should continue to be implemented while keeping in mind the safety of the passengers.
On March 13, the aviation regulator had asked airlines to deboard passengers who do not wear their masks properly despite repeated warnings. The watchdog also directed airlines to treat a passenger as unruly in case the person violates the protocols.
This came days after Justice C. Hari Shankar took suo moto after noticing that many passengers exhibited a stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly in a Delhi-bound flight.
“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 court noted.
Justice Shankar made clear that masks should be worn as directed by governmental instructions, covering the nose and mouth, and not worn merely covering the mouth or below the chin.
“In the event of any passenger being unwilling to follow this protocol prior to the flight taking off, the passenger should be offloaded without delay.”
If a passenger, despite being reminded more than once in flight, refuses to follow this protocol, the Court directed that action should be taken against the passenger, including placing the passenger on a “no-fly” regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period.