New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed budget airline Spicejet to pay Rs 10 lakh as damages to a flyer, suffering from cerebral palsy, who was forcibly offloaded in 2012, saying the manner in which she was deboarded depicts "total lack of sensitivity".
The apex court noted that the disabled flier 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".
"On our finding that SpiceJet acted in a callous manner, and in the process violated Rules, 1937 and Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), 2008 guidelines resulting in mental and physical suffering experienced by Ghosh and also unreasonable discrimination against her, we award a sum of Rs 10,00,000 as damages to be payable to her," a bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal said.
Ghosh was offloaded from a SpiceJet flight on February 19, 2012 from Kolkata when she was going to attend a conference in Goa hosted by NGO ADAPT (Able Disable All People Together), the second petitioner in the case.
The apex court said the decision to offload Ghosh was taken by the airlines without any medical advise or consideration and her condition was not such which required any assistive devices or aids.
"Even if we assume that there was some blood or froth that was noticed to be oozing out from the sides of her mouth when she was seated in the aircraft (though vehemently denied by her), nobody even cared to interact with her and asked her the reason for the same.
"No doctor was summoned to examine her condition. Abruptly and without any justification, a decision was taken to de-board her without ascertaining as to whether her condition was such which prevented her from flying. This clearly amounts to violation of Rule 133-A of Rules, 1937 and the CAR, 2008 guidelines," the bench said.
The bench, in its 54-page judgement, further said that differently-abled persons are unable to lead a full life due to societal 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.
"There are hardly meaningful attempts to assimilate them in the mainstream of the nation's life. 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 said.
It said that the work experience and other qualifications of Ghosh amply demonstrates how a person suffering from cerebral palsy can overcome the disability and achieve such distinctions in her life, notwithstanding various kinds of retardation and the negative attitudes which such persons have to face from the society.
"Ghosh is a living example who has, notwithstanding her disability, achieved so much in life by her sheer determination to overcome her disability and become a responsible and valuable citizen of this country.
"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 Jeeja Ghosh had to undergo. This has resulted in violation of her human dignity and, thus, her fundamental right," the bench said.