Hot Off The PressNews

Order dated 13-09-2020:

DGCA in continuation of Order dt. 12-9-2020 clarified that a bonafide passenger travelling in an aircraft engaged in scheduled air transport services may do still video and photography from inside such an aircraft while in flight.

However, this permission does not include use of any recording equipment which imperils or compromises air safety; violates prevalent norms; creates chaos or disruption during flight operation or expressly prohibited by the crew.

Order dated 12-09-2020:

As per Rule 13 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, no person shall take, or cause or permit to be taken, at a Government aerodrome or from an aircraft in flight, any photographs except in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions of permission in writing granted by the Director-General, a Joint Director-General, a Deputy Director-General or the Director of Regulations and Information of the Civil Aviation Department.

The stated permission is, however, not applicable when such aircraft is landing, taking off, or on the ground at a defence aerodrome.

Further, the DGCA stated that inspite of the above regulations, Airlines have failed to follow these stipulations primarily because of lack of diligence on their part.

Hence, keeping the above-stated in mind, it has been decided that from now on, in case any such violation occurs on any Scheduled Passenger Aircraft — the Schedule of flight for that particular route shall be suspended for a period of two weeks from the next day i.e. the day following and shall be restored only after the Airline has taken all the necessary punitive action against those responsible for the violation.


DGCA

[Order dt. 12-09-2020 & 13-09-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Surendra P. Tavade, JJ. dismissed the application filed by an Air India Pilot seeking direction to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (“DGCA”) and Airline carriers to leave middle seat vacant while flying passengers as a measure of social distancing for prevention against COVID-19 virus. 

The application was dismisses by the High Court relying on the recommendations of the High Level Committee of Experts constituted by the DGCA to meet and recommend certain safety measures to be followed on flights.

Earlier, on 22nd May, the High Court had directed the airlines to follow the DGCA Circular of 23rd March wherein it had recommended that the middle seats in the aircraft should be left vacant while flying passengers in unscheduled flights under the Vande Bharat programme aimed at bringing back Indians stranded abroad. After the High Court’s order, the respondents had approached the Supreme Court which, on 25th May, had directed that the airlines could operate without leaving the middle seat vacant upto 6th June and thereafter in compliance with the order to be passed by the High Court. The Supreme Court had also asked the High Court to consider the aspects of safety of passengers in scheduled as well as unscheduled flights. It had also directed that the DGCA is free to alter any norms in the interest of public health and safety of passengers.

The DGCA, thereafter, constituted a High Level Committee of Experts to meet and recommend safety measures to be followed on flights. The Expert Committee comprised: (i) Rajesh Bhushan, OSD, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; (ii) Dr Randeep Gulera, Director, AIIMS, New Delhi; (iii) Prof Balram Bhargava, DG, ICMR; and (iv) Dr Naresh Trehan, CMD, Medanta-Medicity.

The Expert Committee deliberated on the issue and gave its recommendations, pursuant to which, the DGCA passed an order on 31st May 2020 issuing the recommendations of the Expert Committee as directions of the DGCA.

The Expert Committee had noted that a “face mask worn by two persons in proximity with each other minimises the risk of transmission due to droplets from mouth/nose”. It noted that an “efficient air conditioning system” minimised the risk of transmission through the air and recommended that aircrafts which use “HEPA filters which are effective in screening out various microbes” could be operated in a manner that “replacement of air is very frequent”. The Committee further noted that “if the person sitting in between two persons is wearing a protective gear then the same effect as keeping the seat vacant can be achieved”. After detailed deliberations, the Expert Committee also recommended that if the passenger load and seat capacity permit, then “the airlines shall allot the seats is such manner that the adjacent seat is kept vacant”. If the number of passengers was more, “members of the same family (living in the same house) can be allowed to sit together”, since they would be exposed to each other at home in any case.

Before the High Court, the DGCA also submitted that the Circular dated 23rd March 2020 was issued on an urgent basis in the wake of outbreak of COVID-19 without carrying out any expert consultation. It was informed that thereafter the Air Transport Facilitation Committee meeting was held on 4th May where social distancing on flights was discussed and rejected.

Having considered the Expert Committee recommendations, the High Court moved on to considering the submissions made by the petitioner. However, the petitioner failed to assist the Court in determining how the safety/health of passengers qua COVID-19 virus is affected if airlines fail to keep the middle seat vacant. The Court stated that the petitioner failed to appreciate that even if the middle seat is kept vacant, the person sitting at the window seat whilst getting out for going to lavatory and thereafter returning back to his seat, is likely to touch (through his clothes) the person sitting on the aisle seat. Therefore, if petitioner’s argument was to be accepted, in every row of the aircraft only one passenger should be accommodated. The Court observed:

“We cannot allow an individual to instill such fear in the minds of the public, without any scientific basis,”

The High Court relied on the Supreme Court decisions in Basavaiah v. H.H. Ramesh, (2010) 8 SCC 372; Union of India v. CIPLA, (2017) 5 SCC 262 and Hanuman Laxman Aroskar v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 41 for the proposition that the Expert Committee recommendations can only be set aside if they are shown to be arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable or ultra vires. In the instant case, the Court found nothing in the minutes of the Air Transportation Facilitation Committee or in the recommendations of the Expert Committee, which could be termed as arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable or ultra vires.

Reliance was also placed upon Academy of Nutrition Improvement v. Union of India, (2011) 8 SCC 274, wherein the Supreme Court had held that the scope of review in matters concerning public health is very limited.

In view of the aforementioned, the Court was of the prima facie view that the safety and health of the passengers on board the aircraft qua COVID-19 virus is adequately taken care of even if the middle seat of the aircraft is not kept vacant on account of passenger load and seat capacity.

It was directed that all flight operators in the country shall strictly follow and implement the DGCA Order dated 31st May 2020 as well as applicable SOPs.

The interim application was disposed of in above terms. [Deven Yogesh Kanani v. DGCA, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 714 , dated 15-6-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Surendra P. Tavade, JJ., while passing an interim order allowed flights to keep the middle seat occupied in strict compliance with 31st May, 2020 Circular.

Court had by its 4th, June, 2020 Order  sought clarification whether by a mere touch of a person carrying COVID-19 virus, the virus can be transmitted to the person so touched?

Bench held that,

Flight operators including respondents 2 and 3 shall allow the passengers to occupy the middle seat strictly in compliance with the Circular dated 31st May, 2020 and the applicable SOPs/circulars/guidelines issued from time to time.

[Deven Yogesh Kanani v. DGCA, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 692 , decided on 5-06-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Government of India has considered the matter regarding relaxation of the visa & travel restrictions for certain categories of foreign nationals who need to come to India. It has been decided to permit the following categories of foreign nationals to come to India:-

  • Foreign businessmen coming to India on a Business visa (other than on B-3 visa for sports) in non-scheduled commercial/ chartered flights.
  • Foreign Healthcare professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health sector facilities, including laboratories and factories.  This is subject to a letter of invitation from a recognized and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company or accredited University in India.
  • Foreign Engineering, Managerial, Design or other Specialists travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India.  This includes all manufacturing units, design units, software and IT units as well as financial sector companies (banking and non-banking financial sector firms).
  • Foreign Technical specialists and engineers travelling for installation, repair and maintenance of foreign-origin machinery and equipment facilities in India, on the invitation of a registered Indian business entity.  These could be for equipment installation, or is under warranty, or for after sales servicing or repair on commercial terms.

The above categories of foreign nationals would have to obtain a fresh Business visa or Employment visa, as applicable, from the Indian Missions/ Posts abroad. 

Foreign nationals holding a valid long term multiple entry Business visa [other than B-3 visa for sports] issued by the Indian Missions/ Posts abroad would have to get the Business visa re-validated from the Indian Mission/ Post concerned.

Such foreign nationals would not be permitted to travel to India on the strength of any electronic visa obtained earlier.

Click here to see the Official Document


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 03-06-2020]

[Source: PIB]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Travellers coming to India from international flights have to undergo 14 days quarantine which includes 7 days paid institutional quarantine and 7 days home quarantine. Exemptions have been given to certain categories of passengers in certain cases[1].

For domestic air travel, MHA requires passengers to undergo home quarantine for 14 days[2] however states are free to make their own protocol for passengers entering their state.

The protocol made by states is as follows:

  1. Andhra Pradesh: Passengers travelling to Andhra Pradesh are required to undergo quarantine for 14 days at home or at a government facility. If coming from Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan and MP then 7 days institutional quarantine followed by home quarantine has to be followed[3].
  2. Assam: Assam requires passengers to undergo 7 days institutional quarantine followed by 7 days of home quarantine[4].
  3. Bihar: Domestic passengers, who are asymptomatic after reaching the airport will not be quarantined[5].
  4. Chandigarh: The Union Territory of Chandigarh requires no quarantine[6].
  5. Chattisgarh: A period of 14 days isolation is required by the state. This could be in a hotel, government facility or at home[7].
  6. Delhi: Asymptomatic passengers have to undergo home isolation for 14 days. Symptomatic passengers will be taken for institutional quarantine[8].
  7. Goa: The Government of Goa has given three options. Produce a COVID negative test from an ICMR authorized lab, get a test done for Rs 2000 or stay in home quarantine after being stamped[9].
  8. Haryana: The Gurgaon administration mandates 14 day home quarantine[10].
  9. Himachal Pradesh: In Himachal Pradesh, it is mandatory to undergo 14 days institutional quarantine for those who are coming from the red zone.[11] Passengers from the green/orange zone will be sent to home quarantine after screening[12].
  10. Jammu and Kashmir: Passengers are required to undergo 14 days of institutional quarantine after a compulsory COVID Test.[13]
  11. Jharkhand: 14 days home quarantine is mandatory.[14]
  12. Karnataka: Karnataka had made different rules for people coming from different states. Passengers coming from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have to undergo 7 day institutional quarantine followed by 7 days of home isolation. Passengers coming from other states have to quarantine at home for 14 days.[15]
  13. Kerala: Kerala requires incoming passengers to undergo 14 day isolation at home from the date of arrival.[16]
  14. Madhya Pradesh: In MP, passengers showing symptoms will be sent to either COVID care centre or dedicated COVID-19 hospital or institutional quarantine facility for 10 days.[17] After 10 days, if such a passenger shows no symptoms for another three days then the person can be discharged but will have to stay in home quarantine for 7 days.[18]
  15. Maharashtra: Passengers are required to undergo 14 day home isolation.[19]
  16. Mizoram: Covid test and mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Permission has to be taken before returning to the state.[20]
  17. Nagaland: For passengers from green and orange zones, 14 days home quarantine is required. For passengers returning from red zones, 14 days institutional quarantine followed by 14 days home quarantine is required.[21]
  18. Odisha:  Those returning to urban areas will undergo home isolation for 14 days. Those returning to rural areas will undergo 7 days institutional isolation and 7 days home isolation.[22]
  19. Punjab: The state of Punjab requires travellers to undergo 14 day home isolation[23]
  20. Rajasthan: Home quarantine for 14 days has to be followed.[24]
  21. Tamil Nadu: 14 days isolation at home[25]. Institutional quarantine for those who don’t have this facility at home. Passengers coming to Tamil Nadu have to obtain an e-pass.[26]
  22. Telangana: Symptomatic passengers would be taken to Covid hospital, rest can go home.[27]
  23. Uttar Pradesh: UP mandates 14 days home quarantine. Those who are on business visit are exempted but they have to give details of the place where they will be staying and can stay upto 7 days. The passengers coming to UP also need to register. The details are given in the footnote below.[28]
  24. Uttarakhand: Passengers will be kept in institutional quarantine for a time period as specified by state govt unless they show symptoms which require quarantine in medical facilities.[29]
  25. West Bengal: Asymptomatic passengers can self quarantine at home for 14 days and symptomatic passengers will be tested and taken to institutional centres[30].
  26. Lakshadweep: People returning to Lakshadweep will be quarantined in Kochi, Kerala for 7 days. This will be followed by testing and on testing negative the passengers will be allowed to return. On returning to the island, they will again be quarantined for 14 days.[31]
  27. Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu: Institutional quarantine for 14 days.[32]
  28. Andaman and Nicobar: Only symptomatic passengers will need to undergo quarantine in COVID care centres.[33]
  29. Meghalaya: All passengers will be tested and kept in institutional quarantine upto 48 hours till results come.[34]

The rules will keep getting added and modified as states update their rules.


[1] https://twitter.com/MoCA_GoI/status/1264494489592160256/photo/1

[2] Pages 1-6  https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[3] Pages 12-13 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[4] https://covid19.assam.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/1-4.pdf, (pages 18-23) https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[5] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/19-flights-to-resume-operations-tomorrow/articleshow/75925062.cms

[6] https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/chandigarh-13-domestic-flights-to-take-off-from-chandigarh-from-today-6425841/

[7] Pages 31-33 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[8] Pages 1-2 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[9] Pages 14-15 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[10] Guidelines for domestic travel air/train/inter-state bus travel – ’25/05/2020′ https://haraadesh.nic.in/

[11] Pages 13-15 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[12] Himachal Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority, Circular No. Rev (DMC) (c) 20-2/2020-COVID 19. Dated 23.05.2020

[13] Circular No. 27-JK (DMRRR) of 2020. Dated 23.05.2020. https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf (Page 3-4)

[14] https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/general-news/jharkhand-mandates-14-day-home-quarantine-for-incoming-air-passengers.html

[15] Pages 69-91 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[16] Pages 92-96 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[17] Circular IDSP/2020/435 Dated 23.05.2020

[18] Page 29-30 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[19] https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-lockdown-maharshtra-issues-new-rules-sop-for-passengers-flying-into-mumbai-2234935

[20] https://nenow.in/health/mizoram-govt-issues-sop-for-people-arriving-at-airport.html

[21] Pages 65-68 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[22] Office of Special Relief Commissioner, Government of Odisha, Circular No. 2902/ R&D (DM), dated 24.05.2020. Pages 39-41 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[23] Page 5 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf, Page 23 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[24] Pages 16-17 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[25] https://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/go/hfw_e_219_2020.PDF, https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf (pages 6-7)

[26] https://twitter.com/chennaicorp/status/1264886449448591361

[27] https://www.outlookindia.com/newscroll/no-quarantine-in-telangana-for-domestic-travellers-without-covid-symptoms/1845035

[28] https://twitter.com/ANINewsUP/status/1264511207878225920

[29] https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1264536617663950849, Pages 17-19 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[30](Pages 6-7) https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOP-central.pdf

[31] Disaster Management Authority, Lakshadweep Administration, Circular no. F-21/7/2020-COL. Pages 43-50 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[32] Pages 51-52 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[33] Pages 53-58 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

[34] Page 61-64 https://www.goindigo.in/content/dam/indigov2/6e-website/banners/2020/SOPs_of_states.pdf

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of R.D. Dhanuka and Abhay Ahuja, JJ. while addressing a petitiOn in regard to leaving the middle set vacant in the Air India Flight, held that,

Paramount consideration is the health and safety of  passengers and to achieve the object that they are not infected by Corona virus when they undertake any such travel.

Petitioner working with Air India limited placed its grievance that Air India Limited had not been following the Government of India Circular dated 23rd March, 2020 and the condition that emphasised as a grievance was with regard to seat allocation at the time of checking is to be done in a manner to ensure that the seat between two passengers is kept empty.

The purpose of the above-mentioned circular was to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Counsel for Air India Limited, Dr Chandrachud submitted that the said circular does not apply to non-scheduled commercial flight but would apply only to the domestic flights. Further, he added that all precautions required to be taken so as to prevent spread of Covid-19 are taken while lifting the passengers from abroad and to bring these stranded passengers in India.

“…even if one seat is kept vacant between two seats, even then criteria of social distancing prescribed by the Government of India would not be satisfied.”

Petitioner’s Counsel Panickar submitted that if Air India’s argument is accepted then in that case, no preventive measures in view of COVID-19 shall be taken.

According to the Circular, guidelines also provides prosecuting preventive measures including social distancing to be taken not only by Air lines but also by the Airport Authority at the Airports.

Bench observed that Counsel for the Petitioner and Air India Limited, prima facie, did not indicate that said Circular dated 23rd March, 2020 does not apply to non-schedule flights operated by Air India Limited for lifting Indian stranded passengers abroad.

Further the Bench said that prima facie it cannot accept the Air India Counsel’s submission that social distancing measures as provided in the said Circular would apply only to Scheduled Flight and not to non-scheduled commercial flights or only to domestic operation and not to International. 

Object behind the 23rd March, 2020 Circular of GOI is for the safety of passengers and protection of their health during this COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Circular can not be interpreted to apply differently to the passengers who are travelling from abroad and the domestic passengers.

There would certainly be a reasonable caution and care of “safe and healthy travel” is what the measures of social distancing mentioned in the Circular intend without any differentiation of the category of passengers. This would be required to be recognized as legitimate expectation and concomitant to right to life guaranteed to the citizens who are undertaking such travel.

Thus, in Court’s opinion Air India violated the Government of India Circular dated 23rd March, 2020 by not keeping one seat between two seats vacant.

Hence Court directed respondent’s 2 and 2 to comply with circular and while lifting their passengers from abroad to India also in respect of non-scheduled commercial flights.

Further the Court directed that 23rd March Circular be read with 22nd May, 2020 Circular in so far as domestic flights are concerned.[Deven Y. Kanani v. D.G.C.A, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 660, decided on 22-05-2020]


For Updated Position, please follow the below link:

COVID-19 | Air India can operate full capacity flights till June 6 only: SC

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vibhu Bakhru, J., disposed of a petition before it impugning para 3.2 of the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) dated 06.08.2010 issued by the DGCA. The petitioner herein was aggrieved by the airline denying boarding to him on account of overbooking.

The petitioner claimed that para 3.2 of the impugned CAR permits overbooking of flights which, according to the petitioner, cannot be permitted. The impugned para, on plain reading revealed that the para merely recognizes the practice (of overbooking) followed by some airlines and provides for compensation to inconvenienced passengers. The paragraph does not permit any airline to carry out the practice, neither does the practice gain any force of law by virtue of the CAR. It was further clarified that the impugned paragraph, in no way, affected any consumer redressal action preferred by aggrieved passengers, and thus, did not limit compensation. Petition dismissed. [Pallav Mongia v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 7006, decided on 02.02.2018]