The Supreme Court ordered low-cost SpiceJet airline on Thursday to pay a Rs10-lakh compensation to rights activist Jeeja Ghosh, a cerebral palsy patient, for offloading her from a flight.
A bench headed by justice AK Sikri found the airline guilty of not fulfilling its social responsibility and regretted that society continued to discriminate people with disabilities. The court fixed a two-month period for the company to pay the compensation.
In 2012, SpiceJet’s cabin crew asked Ghosh to de-board after the pilot purportedly said he was not comfortable with the disabled rights activist around. The 40-year-old had boarded the plane in Kolkata and was to visit Goa for a conference. SpiceJet refunded the ticket money after deducting the flight cancellation charges.
“It is the common experience of several persons with disabilities that they are unable to lead a full life due to societal barriers and discrimination faced by them in employment, access to public spaces, transportation etc.,” the bench said.
The SpiceJet crew’s action violated Ghosh’s fundamental right to live with dignity, the court said.
“A little care, a little sensitivity 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,” the court said.
The bench praised Ghosh for her struggle against discrimination and said she achieved much in life by sheer determination to overcome disability.
Ghosh is a recipient of a number of awards for her contribution to the cause of people with disabilities.She is a board member of the National Trust, an Indian government organisation set up under the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.
SpiceJet, the court ruled, violated the rules that clearly specify no airlines can decline to carry a passenger with disabilities.
SpiceJet claimed Ghosh did not inform the airline about her disability. It told the court that Ghosh’s de-boarding was done for her own safety since blood and froth was oozing from her mouth.
The bench rejected the arguments and held: “No doctor was summoned to examine her condition. Abruptly and without any justification, decision was taken to de-board her without ascertaining as to whether her condition was such which prevented her from flying.”