The Supreme Court has fined budget airline Spicejet for showing indiscrimination towards a disabled flier, suffering from cerebral palsy.
The apex court ordered SpiceJet to pay Rs 10 lakh as damages to Jeeja Ghosh, saying it reflects a “total lack of sensitivity” and “unreasonable discrimination”.
Ghosh was deboarded from a SpiceJet flight in Kolkata to Goa in February 2012. The 46-year-old teacher at Kolkata’s Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy was on her way to attend a conference on the rights of people with disability.
The Court noted:
“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 A K Sikri and R K Agrawal said.
The airlines had claimed that there was blood and froth oozing from Ghosh’s mouth, which violated guidelines. Ghosh contested the claim and went to court.
“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,” the court said.
Ghosh has called the verdict a victory for “the entire specially-abled community.”
The bench, in its 54-page judgement, also highlighted the social barriers faced by disabled persons in India.
“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,” the court added.
“Persons with disability are a most neglected lot not only in the society but also in the family.”
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.