Supreme Court: Considering the hardship of the passengers who are stranded on foreign soil at the airports after they were issued valid tickets for travel, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has directed that Air India be allowed to operate the non-scheduled flights with the middle seats booking upto 6th June, 2020. However,

“after that the Air India will operate non-scheduled flights in accordance with the interim order to be passed by the Bombay High Court thereafter.”

The hearing was conducted through video conferencing on Eid holiday, considering the urgent nature of the matter.

The said order of the Court came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the Court that the stranded passengers are under a lot of anxiety and difficulties arising from want of proper shelter, money, etc., at the foreign airports. Also, in some cases, the travel plan of families who were travelling together has been disrupted because those in the families who had middle seats have to be off loaded and remain behind.

The Court, hence, remanded the matter to the Bombay High Court and asked it to pass an effective interim order after hearing all concerned on the date fixed i.e. 2nd June, 2020 by it or soon thereafter. It also asked the High Court to arrive at a prima facie finding regarding the safety and health of the passengers qua the COVID-19 virus, whether the flight is scheduled flight or a non-scheduled flight.

The Court, however, made it clear that the Director General of Civil Aviation is free to alter any norms he may consider necessary during the pendency of the matter in the interest of public health and safety of the passengers rather than of commercial considerations.

[Union of India v. Deven Yogesh Kanani, SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) Diary No(s).11629/2020, order dated 25.05.2020]

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