New Delhi, May 25: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed operation of non-scheduled Air India international flights with middle seat bookings for 10 days.
Despite Monday being a holiday on the occasion of Eid, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde convened the special sitting to hear the petitions filed by Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India.
Both filed pleas on Sunday night against the Bombay High Court order, which directed the Air India to operate its international flights keeping middle seats vacant as a social distancing measure in the view of Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the SC Bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, directed Air India will have to follow the Bombay High Court’s direction to keep middle seats vacant after 10 days.
The Bombay HC passed the direction on a petition, filed by an Air India pilot Deven Y. Kanani, alleging that Air India violated the COVID-19 guidelines by allowing the booking of middle seats.
The SC said it was passing the order taking note of the extraordinary situation that Air India has already issued tickets for Indians stranded abroad.
Earlier, Solicitor General Mehta told the Bench that the Bombay HC order has spread anxiety and resulted in difficulties for those families that were supposed to travel together.
It’s notable that the Bombay HC held that the circular issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on March 23 to keep middle seats empty in flights to enforce physical distancing as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 was applicable to international flights.
The Centre and the Air India contended that the March 23 circular was applicable only to scheduled commercial flights, and not to special international operations undertaken to repatriate Indians stranded abroad.