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JEEJA GHOSH vs UNION OF INDIA: Airport services changed to accommodate passengers with disabilities

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WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 98 OF 2012

A writ petition was filed by Ms Jeeja Ghosh, a person with cerebral palsy who was unceremoniously deplaned by Spice Jet in Kolkata on 19 Feb 2012.  Despite being a regular air traveler and comfortably settled in her seat on her way to a conference on disability rights in Goa, Ms Jeeja Gosh was deemed unfit to fly by the air crew and removed before take-off.  The conference, North South Dialogue IV, was organized by Able Disable All People Together (ADAPT), who is the second petitioner in the case.

Despite the existing Constitutional, domestic and international laws on the issue, Ms Jeeja Ghosh and others in her situation continue to face discrimination and harassment while travelling.  These acts, occurring on various airlines across the country, are in violation of the existing Civil Aviation Requirements, and also violate the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. The actions are also directly contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which India ratified in 2007. 

In addition to compensation for the loss and suffering that resulted from this particular incident the petitioner is also seeking direction to ensure that the respondents take action to ensure implementation of the Civil Aviation Requirements and other statutory and constitutional requirements, with clearly spelt out exemplary penalties for non-compliance with the regulations to ensure that such behaviour does not occur in the future.

Hearing the petition, on May 12, 2016 the Supreme Court observed “we arrive at the irresistible conclusion that Jeeja Ghosh was not given appropriate, fair and caring treatment which she required with due sensitivity, and the decision to de-board her, in the given circumstances, was uncalled for. More than that, the manner in which she was treated while de-boarding from the aircraft, depicts total lack of sensitivity on the part of the officials of the airlines. The manner in which she was dealt with proves the assertion of Shapiro as correct and justified that 'non-disabled do not understand disabled ones”.

The SC further added “On our finding that respondent No.3 acted in a callous manner, and in the process violated Rules, 1937 and CAR, 2008 guidelines resulting in mental and physical suffering experienced by Jeeja Ghosh and also unreasonable discrimination against her, we award a sum of 10,00,000 as damages to be payable to her by respondent No.3 within a period of two months from today”.

The Hon’ble SC also stated “following aspects may be reconsidered by the DGCA/Government to see whether they can be incorporated in CAR 2014 by proper amendments, standardization of equipments, help desk, wheelchair usage, security checks, on board facilities, complaints mechanism, trainings, offloading. We direct that the official respondents, in consultation with other departments as mentioned above, shall consider the aforesaid aspects, and even other aspects which deserve such attention but may not have been specified by us, within a period of three months and on that basis whatever further provisions are to be incorporated should be inserted.

The matter is still being heard in the Supreme Court.

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HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.