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People With Disabilities Shouldn’t Be Asked To Remove Prosthetic Limbs at Airport Security: SC

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Dec 3, 2021

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Image Credits: The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that people with disabilities who have prosthetic limbs or calipers should not be made to remove them during airport security checks. The court noted the practice was against human dignity, Live Law reported.

The judges were responding to a petition by Jeeja Ghosh, a disability rights activist, who sought to ensure comfortable air travel for persons with disabilities.

The bench, comprising Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V Ramasubramanian, also observed that the practice of manually lifting disabled people during the security check was “inhumane” and must never be done without consent. The judgment marks an important step towards recognizing the bodily autonomy and dignity of people with disabilities in India.

Ghosh is disabled herself; her petition dates back to 2012 when she was forcibly de-boarded from SpiceJet airlines. The court ordered the airline to pay Rs 10 lakh to Ghosh for violating her right to dignity; it also directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to frame guidelines ensuring the dignity of persons with disabilities during air travel.

The latest draft of DGCA guidelines in 2021, titled “Carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility,” was met with objections from the petitioner. In response, the bench allowed her to submit suggestions and objections to the draft, and asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider the same.


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What It’s Like to Live With: Physical Disability in the Times of Covid19


Earlier this year, actor and dancer Sudhaa Chandran raised the issue of airport security engaging in this practice. Chandran expressed her distress regarding the ordeal of being asked to remove her prosthetic limb at the Mumbai airport and appealed to the government to stop the practice.

“…each time, am stopped at the airport and when I request them at the security, to the CISF [Central Industrial Security Force] officers that please do an ETD (Explosive Trace Detector) for my artificial limb, they still want me to remove my artificial limb and show it to them,” she tweeted.

The judgment is therefore significant in recognizing the dignity of disabled individuals who go through airport security checks. Many disabled people have spoken out against the humiliation they are made to face during the process.

“The CISF and airport staff need sensitization. They often look at us with suspicion, often instructing us to stand up, taking us to another room for further checks,” D Gnana Bharathi, president, Spinal Injured Persons Association, told Times of India. Bharathi was among many disability activists who took part in the Chennai Airport’s sensitization program for CISF personnel, on how to assist disabled people.

In addition to people with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming individuals also often face scrutiny and indignity when they are forced to queue up in a line that does not align with their gender identity. Rigid airport security rules thus end up harming the individuals that they claim to protect, with such measures.

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Written By Rohitha Naraharisetty

Rohitha Naraharisetty is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. Previously, she was a freelance writer and independent researcher working in the intersection of gender, social movements, and international relations. She can be found on Instagram at @rohitha_97 or on Twitter at @romimacaronii.

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