Rights of people with disabilities: petitioner makes further suggestions to change guidelines, following SC order against removal of prosthetic limbs for airport security checks


THE Supreme Court, December 1, in its order in Jeeja Ghosh v Indian Union considered that disabled people with prosthetic limbs should not be asked to remove prostheses during security checks at airports. The Court also noted that lifting a person with a disability during an airplane trip or security check is inhumane and violates their human dignity, and that it should only be done with the person’s consent.

The decision of the judiciary, composed of judges Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian, came in a case filed by disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh in 2012, concerning the latest draft guidelines “Air transport of persons with disabilities and / or people with reduced mobility ”. issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGAC). The judiciary, however, left the question of how exactly the disabled person should be treated with dignity when traveling by plane to the DGAC.

On December 1, the judiciary rejected the petition in the hope that the DGAC will consider the suggestions submitted by the petitioners to modify the draft guidelines, which had given rise to multiple objections.

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Jeeja Ghosh’s suggestions to the DGAC

The booklet learns from petitioner Ghosh that she has now decided to make the following suggestions to the DGAC to modify the draft guidelines:

  1. All airlines should be encouraged to use towable ramps / ambulances where airlift services are not available; where the provision of ambulifts is not possible, then a “disabled lift”, a low cost piece of equipment with mechanical wheels, which lifts the person in the wheelchair, to the ladder platform adjacent to the aircraft door should be used. Penal provisions must be introduced if this facility is not provided for and must be clearly stated in the directives.
  2. Roadside kiosks should be set up immediately at all airports.
  3. Standard operating procedures with clearly defined dos and don’ts for people with disabilities should be established, with the provision of a readily available escort at the curbside kiosk at airports . This should also include people with invisible diseases like autism.
  4. Training and awareness should be provided to all relevant stakeholders, including staff who are often responsible for lifting and assisting people with disabilities.
  5. Aisle wheelchairs should be introduced at all airlines.
  6. For blind people, audio description of visual aids on the aircraft should be provided. The cabin crew must be trained in sign language because the majority of deaf people cannot read lips and safety instructions must be made available to them in sign language; in addition, all airlines should provide safety instructions for blind people in braille.
  7. Cabin crew should be trained to understand that people with invisible disabilities should have their assistive devices with them at all times and should not be required to put their assistive devices away until the aircraft is in flight. .

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Ghosh, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and the non-profit organization ADAPT (Abled, Disabled, All People Together) – formerly known as the Spastics Society of India – had filed the immediate petition with the Supreme Court to request compensation for her treatment in a SpiceJet flight in 2012. Scheduled to fly from Kolkata to Goa on February 19, 2012 to attend a conference organized by ADAPT, she was forcibly removed from the plane due to her disability. The incident left him with intense trauma and humiliation, Ghosh said.

The applicants had asked the Supreme Court, under article 32 of the Constitution, to put in place a system so that other persons with disabilities did not suffer similar suffering which violated their fundamental rights under articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

By ordering SpiceJet to pay him compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs, the Supreme Court of Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal on May 12, 2016, ruled that “[a] a little care, a little sensitivity and a little positive attitude from airline officials would not have resulted in the trauma, pain and suffering that Jeeja Ghosh must have endured. This had resulted in a violation of his human dignity and, consequently, of his fundamental right ”.

Following the judgment, the DGAC drew up a new set of guidelines – “Air transport of disabled people and / or people with reduced mobility” – and published them on July 2, 2021, but the petitioner, by way of through lawyer Colin Gonsalves, raised multiple objections to the new guidelines.

Although the draft guidelines mention the scanning of prostheses / calipers using full body scanners, airport security personnel continue to require people wearing prostheses to undress to perform these security checks.

The discourse around these concerns of people with disabilities grew after actress Sudha Chandran shared on social media her ordeal of being asked to remove her artificial limb every time she passed a security check at the hospital. ‘airport. After his social media post went viral, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) apologized to the actor.

Following the Chandran incident, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued a set of “draft accessibility standards and guidelines”. These guidelines are intended for airlines and airport operators to follow in order to reduce the inconvenience to persons with disabilities when traveling by air.

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According to the draft guidelines, airport operators must take steps to ensure that persons with special needs are screened in a manner which respects the “dignity and privacy” of the passenger. Airport security is authorized to use explosive trace detection devices, X-rays or visual checks to check prostheses; Only in rare cases is it permitted to ask passengers to remove their prostheses for an x-ray check, in which the security forces believe, for reasons to be recorded, that a thorough check is a absolute requirement which cannot be avoided.

He also said airlines should conduct frequent awareness trainings for new hires and ensure all staff receive periodic reminders on policies and standard operating procedures to help customers with all forms of disabilities.

Ghosh’s suggestions “must be filed with the DGAC, as soon as a meeting is scheduled”, as indicated by her and Rajive Raturi, consultant in this case.

(Vismita Rathi is a second year undergraduate law student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.)


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