India

Disabled people win big, Supreme Court backs rights at airports | India News

KOLKATA: People with disabilities should not be made to remove their prosthetic limbs or calipers during security checks at airports, nor they be lifted manually without consent, the Supreme Court has ruled after the final hearing of a case filed by Kolkata-based activist Jeeja Ghosh. It also said security checks should be done without violating the person’s dignity.
Jeeja, whose cerebral palsy has never been a hurdle for her while travelling around the world on her own, had been forcibly offloaded from a flight in Kolkata in February 2012 after the crew decided that she was not fit to travel unaccompanied.
She had taken the airline to court that led to the landmark judgment in May 2016, in which the SC highlighted two important rights of disabled travellers: accessibility and reasonable accommodation. The airline had to pay Rs10 lakh as damages for the mental and physical suffering caused to Jeeja.
That judgment led airlines to ask their staff to be more sensitive towards people with disabilities. The Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), 2008, on Carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities was revised, ensuring disabled persons were treated equally, standard wheelchairs were made available at airports, SOP and training on how to board/deboard such people.
The Supreme Court in February 2017 directed the DGCA to look into suggestions submitted by the petitioner to make further appropriate amendments to CAR guidelines. When DGCA came up with the new draft on July 2, 2021, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner, raised multiple objections. Following this, the SC asked the petitioner to file the suggestions in 30 days.
While disposing of the petition on Wednesday, the SC bench observed no disabled person should be manually lifted without consent, terming the act inhumane; and security checks at airports should be done in a manner that no one is required to remove the prosthetic.
Though the draft CAR guideline mentions scanning of prosthetic limbs/calipers through use of full body scanner, security at airports continue to ask people with prosthetic limbs to take off trousers or shirts to conduct checks. In October, actor Sudha Chandran had uploaded a video on Instagram and tagged PM Modi about her ordeal of being asked to remove her artificial limb each time she passed through airport security. The incident occurred at Mumbai airport. The CISF had tweeted an apology the following day.




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