REGRETTING THAT the mindset of "able" persons adversely impact the human rights of the differently-abled, the Supreme Court Thursday ordered SpiceJet airlines to pay Rs 10 lakh as damages to a flyer, suffering from cerebral palsy, who was forcibly offloaded in 2012.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal said that despite all regulations, there are hardly any meaningful attempts to assimilate the disabled in the mainstream of the nation's life and that the apathy towards their problems is so pervasive that even the number of disabled persons existing in the country is not well documented.
The bench noted that differently-abled flyer Jeeja Ghosh was not given "appropriate, fair and caring treatment", which she required with "due sensitivity" and the decision to de-board her was "uncalled for" and violation of "human dignity".
Ghosh, an eminent activist involved in disability rights, was offloaded from a SpiceJet flight in February 2012 from Kolkata when she was going to attend a conference in Goa hosted by NGO ADAPT (Able Disable All People Together).
The top court held that the decision to offload Ghosh was taken by the airlines "in a callous manner", without any medical advice or consideration and her condition was not such that it required any assistive devices or aids.
"No doctor was summoned to examine her condition. Abruptly and without any justification, a decision was taken to deboard her without ascertaining as to whether her condition was such which prevented her from flying," said the bench, adding it was also in violation of civil aviation rules.
The court also underlined that differently-abled persons are unable to lead a full life due to barriers and discrimination faced by them in employment, access to public spaces and transportation.
"What is to be borne in mind is that they are also human beings and they have to grow as normal persons and are to be extended all facilities in this behalf. Persons with disability are a most neglected lot not only in the society but also in the family. More often, they are an object of pity," it said.
Citing Jeeja's case, the court said that "a little care, a little sensitivity and a little positive attitude on the part of the officials of the airlines would not have resulted in the trauma, pain and suffering that she had to undergo".