The Delhi High Court Thursday directed aviation regulator DGCA to form an appellate committee that will hear the appeal of Shankar Mishra, who is accused of urinating on a woman on board an Air India flight, against the four-month flying ban slapped on him.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said the committee shall be formed in two weeks and permitted Mishra to file the appeal before the panel within two weeks.
“The hearing (of the committee) shall be held on April 20,” the high court said.
It disposed of Mishra’s plea seeking direction to the authorities to expeditiously constitute an appellate committee in accordance with Rule 8.3 of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for Unruly Passengers issued by the Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The court said it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case against Mishra.
In his plea, Mishra said an inquiry committee had on January 18 designated him an unruly passenger and banned him from flying for four months. Mishra said in his petition he seeks to challenge that order before the appellate committee which, according to him, is not in place yet.
Mishra, who is out on bail, was arrested in January in a criminal case after he allegedly urinated on a 70-year-old woman passenger in an intoxicated state in the business class of an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi on November 26 last year.
During the hearing, the counsel for the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that the appellate committee was constituted in November 2018 with a former judge of the high court as the chairperson and two other members. However, the former judge resigned this February while the other two members gave their consent to continue in the panel, the counsel said. It was further submitted by the ministry’s counsel that hopefully the appellate committee will be constituted within two weeks. In his plea filed through advocate Akshat Bajpai, the petitioner submitted that the inquiry committee’s order suffers from factual and legal infirmities.
Mishra said the committee completely misunderstood the physical layout of the aircraft and premised its findings on the basis of this erroneous understanding of the aircraft.
“Rule 8.5 of CAR envisages that a person aggrieved by an 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 dated January 18, 2023 on grounds of the aforementioned 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 and 27 and March 6,” the petition said.
It, however, said no such committee has been constituted as of the date of filing this writ petition.
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 remedies available unto him as per the due procedure established by law, the petition said.
It added the ministry’s “inaction” is directly infringing the petitioner’s rights under Article 21 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
Mishra claimed that during the duration of the flight certain unsubstantiated and false allegations were made against him by a co-passenger who had registered a complaint with the AirSewa grievance portal on December 20, 2022.
The plea said in pursuance of the complaint, Air India constituted an Internal Inquiry Committee in accordance with CAR, to determine whether the petitioner should be designated an unruly passenger and for what duration should he be banned from flying.