New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed airline SpiceJet Ltd to pay 10 lakh as compensation to a disabled passenger for removing her from the aircraft.

In 2012, Jeeja Ghosh was removed from a SpiceJet flight on the pilot’s insistence as she suffered from cerebral palsy.

The court said that SpiceJet acted “in a callous manner, and in the process violated (Aircraft) Rules, 1937 and Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), 2008 guidelines resulting in mental and physical suffering experienced by Jeeja Ghosh and also unreasonable discrimination against her."

SpiceJet told the court that the airline was not informed in advance about Ghosh’s condition as stipulated by CAR rules and that she could not be moved in absence of an escort.

The court’s judgment incorporates the view that a disability occurs when society fails to incorporate a person’s impairment.

“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 54-page judgment said.

A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal also directed officials of the directorate general of civil aviation and the department of disability affairs to have joint discussions to implement the recommendations of an expert committee headed by joint secretary, ministry of civil aviation G. Ashok Kumar.

In an email to Mint, SpiceJet said it could comment on the judgment only after receiving a copy of the verdict. “We respect the Supreme Court judgement. We have not received the verdict copy yet. We can only comment post going through the document," the company said.

This committee reviewed the civil aviation requirements rules and recommended improved allocation of responsibility between airports and airlines, so that inconvenience to Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) was reduced. Recommendations include standardization of equipment like wheelchairs, web-enabled booking, in flight briefings, among others.

The court noted that there was need to bridge the gap between the laws made for the disabled and actual implementation.

“India also has come out with various legislation and schemes for the upliftment of such differently abled persons, but gap between the laws and reality still remains," the court said.

“This is not the first time the judiciary has taken a rights-based approach towards persons with disabilities. For instance, n 2009, the court had upheld the reproductive rights of a woman with a learning disability. This judgment is important as it might pave the way for travel, and in fact infrastructure and services at large, to be more accessible for the disabled. We need to see if this kind of judicial activism can be extended to all forms of transport, and even the right to live in the community.

While this judgment might invoke some of the charity-based notions, it’s more in line with the social model of disability, and is noteworthy for pointing out the issues with the medical model" said Amba Salelkar, of the Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, Chennai.

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