India’s SpiceJet to compensate disabled flyer Dh55,000

The victim accused the airline of discrimination and said her fundamental rights had been violated.

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NEW DELHI // India’s top court on Thursday ordered budget airline SpiceJet to pay one million rupees (Dh55,110) to an activist with cerebral palsy who was offloaded from one of its flights four years ago.

The supreme court said Jeeja Ghosh endured mental and physical suffering after she was asked to disembark from the flight on her way to the western state of Goa to attend a conference in February 2012.

In a petition to the court, Ms Ghosh, 46, said she was offloaded because the pilot felt she was not fit to fly on her own, despite her pleas that she had travelled without an escort in the past.

Although SpiceJet later apologised, Ms Ghosh approached the court seeking compensation. She accused the airline of discrimination and said her fundamental rights had been violated.

In passing the judgement on Thursday, the supreme court said Ms Ghosh “feels haunted with that scene when she was pulled out of the plane, like a criminal. She continues to have nightmares”.

Judge AK Sikri also quoted famous American disabled rights activist Helen Keller in a judgement that was scathing of airlines’ treatment of disabled passengers in general.

“ ‘A rare few see a closed door, try the knob, if it doesn’t open and they find a key and if it doesn’t fit, they make one!’ These rare persons we have to find,” he said.

Ms Ghosh said she hoped the judgement would set a precedent and send a message to other carriers.

“Compensation amount is not important, setting an example is more important,” she told the NDTV television network.

“I’d just like to send out a message to everyone, just don’t give up.”

* Agence-France Presse