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Airlines to deboard passengers without face masks as covid cases surge

The DGCA order follows a High Court directive last week to the aviation regulator to enforce the covid safety guidelines in order to check the spread of the pandemic. There has been a sudden rise in the infections in several States like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala in the past few weeks. The passengers refusing to observe the covid protocol can be handed over to the security agencies to take action as per the law, the DGCA order said.

NEW DELHI, June 8: As the covid cases are rising again in the country, the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered the airlines to deboard passengers who violate the covid norms like wearing of face masks and take action against them in order to prevent the spread of infections. The CISF personnel will be in charge of enforcing the guidelines.

The DGCA order follows a High Court directive last week to the aviation regulator to enforce the covid safety guidelines in order to check the spread of the pandemic. There has been a sudden rise in the infections in several States like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala in the past few weeks.

In its order on Wednesday, the DGCA said: "The Airline shall ensure that in case any passenger does not adhere to instructions even after repeated warnings, he/she should be deboarded, if need be, before departure … In case any passenger on board an aircraft refuses to wear mask or violates the 'COVID-19 Protocol for passengers' even after repeated warnings, during the course of the flight, such passenger may be treated as 'Unruly Passenger.' "

Airport operators have been asked to step up the announcements and surveillance. Cases of refusal to wear masks can be dealt with fine or the passengers can be handed over to security agencies to take action as per the law, the DGCA order said.

The Delhi High Court had on last Friday asked the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue binding guidelines to enforce mask mandates and covid protocol at airports and inside planes. The court observed that the pandemic has not abated and there are sporadic outbreaks.

Favouring deterrent action against violators, the court order said all such persons, who are found to be violating these norms, should be booked and fined. They should be placed on the no-fly list.

"For this purpose, we are of the view that the DGCA should give separate binding directions to all airlines to authorise the staff at airports and in aircraft, including air hostesses, captains, pilots and others to take strict action against passengers and others who violate the masking and hand hygiene norms," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta said.

The court observed that people may not wear N-95 masks in flights but they must at least wear a surgical mask as the idea is to reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the virus.

The High Court was hearing a suo motu petition registered by Justice C Hari Shankar regarding non-adherence by air passengers to social distancing norms and covid protocol.

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