The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to constitute an appellate committee to handle the appeal of air passengers facing a travel ban, in a period of two weeks. The court passed the direction on the petition moved by Shankar Mishra who is facing a 4-month air travel ban.
Justice Prathiba M Singh while disposing of the petition, also directed the petitioner Shankar Shyamnaval Mishra to file an appeal in two weeks before the committee. The court said that the first hearing before the committee shall be on April 10. Meanwhile, the committee shall be constituted.
The high court also noted that the 60 days period for filing an appeal is over. However, the court allowed him to file an appeal.
The counsel for the DGCA submitted that the committee was there earlier. It got dissolved after the chairperson resigned on February 9, 2023.
The counsel also said that before that the committee was working. But the petitioner sent an email instead of filing an appeal. The ministry is in the process of appointment of the chairperson.
After noting the submission the bench observed, “The petitioner ought to have filed an appeal, instead of sending emails as at the time the committee was working.”
Mishra had approached the court seeking a direction for the constitution of an appellate committee to challenge the ban order. He is facing a 4-month ban after an incident of unruly behaviour while travelling from the US to New Delhi.
The High court on March 15, granted time to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to place on record the documents related to the constitution of the appellate Committee looking into the appeals of unruly Air passengers.
Shankar Mishra moved the court seeking a direction to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to constitute an appellate committee in accordance with DGCA CAR for Unruly Passengers.
He is accused of urinating on a woman on the flight in November. An FIR was registered and he was arrested. Later, he was granted bail by the court.
He has been banned from travelling for four months. He has challenged the order passed by the Internal Inquiry Committee.
The Petitioner moved a petition through advocate Akshat Bajpai and stated that he was travelling in business class on Air India Flight on November 26, 2022, where during the duration of the flight, certain unsubstantiated and false allegations were made against him by a co-passenger.
The said co-passenger had registered a complaint with the Airsewa grievance portal on December 20, 2022, the petition stated.
In pursuance of the complaint received on December 20, 2022, Air India constituted an Internal Inquiry Committee in accordance with the DGCA Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for handling unruly passengers to determine whether the Petitioner should be designated to be an unruly passenger under CAR and for what duration should the Petitioner be banned from flying, it added.
The petitioner was issued a notice by the Inquiry Committee on December 24, 2022, and after conducting, meetings issued an order designating him to be an unruly passenger and banning him from flying for 4 months, the petition was submitted.
The said order suffers from factual and legal infirmities as the order completely misunderstands the physical layout of the aircraft and premises its findings on the basis of this erroneous understanding of the aircraft, it added.
It is submitted that under Rule 8.5 of CAR, a person aggrieved by order of the Inquiry Committee may prefer an appeal within 60 days of the order before an Appellate Committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The Petitioner, being aggrieved by the order of January 18, 2023, on grounds of factual and legal infirmities seeks to prefer an appeal against the said order and has written emails to the DGCA on January 19 and to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on February 20, February 27 and March 6, the plea stated.
However, no such committee has been constituted as of the date of filing this Writ Petition, it stated.
It is an established position of law that a statutory right of appeal is a vested right and the non-constitution of the Appellate Committee by the Ministry of Civil Aviation is eroding the Petitioner’s right to exhaust all his remedies available unto him as per the due procedure established by law, the petition said.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s inaction is directly infringing the Petitioner’s rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, it contended.