1. The petitioners, who are Cabin Crew in Air India Limited, are before this Court seeking to direct respondents 1 and 2 to issue necessary Airport Entry Permits to the petitioners as requested by them in order to enter the airport for their duty purposes.
2. The petitioners are working as Cabin Crew in Air India Limited. On 28.07.2016, the 1st petitioner and one Lady Crew were in charge as Cabin Crew in Air India flight from Sharjah to Calicut. The petitioners state that the said Lady Crew slept in the flight while on duty and a passenger named Mr.Basheer took the video of the Lady Cabin Crew sleeping, and uploaded in social media. Annoyed by the social media post, the Lady Crew filed police complaint against the petitioners and Mr. Basheer. The said criminal case CC No.396/2018 for offences punishable under Sections 354(A) and 509 read with Section 34 IPC, is pending before the Judicial First Class Magistrate's Court-I, Manjeri. The Sessions Court, Kozhikode has granted anticipatory bail to the petitioners.
3. Since a criminal case is pending, the entry passes applied for by the petitioners were granted for three months only. When the petitioners made application for entry passes in December, 2019, respondents 1 and 2 rejected the application. The petitioners submit that the rejection of their applications is illegal. Airport Entry Permits can be refused only if a person is convicted in a criminal case. The petitioners have not been convicted by any criminal court. The permits applied for are therefore liable to be granted by respondents 1 and 2, contended the petitioners.
4. The Assistant Solicitor General representing respondents 1 and 2 entered appearance and opposed the writ petition. The learned ASG submitted that an airport is high security area and working at airport is a sensitive job. Bureau of Civil Aviation Security is the appropriate authority in India to secure aircraft operations against the act of unlawful interferences. The Aerodrome Entry Permit guidelines governing access control to aerodrome are issued under the provision of Rule 90 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 and Rule 18 of the Aircraft (Security) Rules, 2011.
5. The learned ASG pointed out that in view of Rule 90 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, no person shall enter or be in the terminal building of any government aerodrome or public aerodrome or part of such building or any other area in such aerodrome notified in this behalf by the Central Government unless he holds an admission ticket issued by the Commissioner of Security (Civil Aviation) or any person authorised by the Central Government in this behalf. The learned ASG specifically relied on paragraph numbers 11.9.1 to 11.10 of the AEP Guidelines, 2019, which read as follows:-
“11.9.1 Certain serious crimes, specifically possession and use of hard drugs, trafficking in hard and soft drugs, trafficking in weapons or the illegal possession of weapons, assault, extortion, acts endangering public safety including acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation, sexual offences or membership of criminal organization (in exceptional circumstances, DG, BCAS may determine that such a person has been fully rehabilitated and, therefore, no longer constitutes a risk)
11.9.2 Other relevant offences such as burglary, fencing of stolen goods, embezzlement, fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation, without restitution.
11.10 The decision of DG, BCAS shall be final in cases where an FIR is registered and/or a case is pending before the Court in India.”
The learned ASG submitted that since the decision of the 1st respondent is final in cases where an FIR is registered, the petitioners cannot as of right claim that the Airport Entry Permits should be issued to them.
6. I have heard the learned counsel for the petitioners, the learned ASG appearing for respondents 1 and 2 and the learned Standing Counsel appearing for the 3rd respondent.
7. It is discernible from Ext.P4 letter of the Inspector of Police, Kondotty addressed to the Assistant General Manager, In-flight Services Department, Air India, Calicut that the investigation in respect of the alleged crime is almost completed and the Inspector of Police has no objection for issuing Airport Entry Pass to the petitioners for their job purpose in Air India. The Deputy General Manager- Personnel, Air India Limited has also issued Exts.P5 and P5(a) letters to the Deputy Director, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security stating that the petitioners are working as Deputy Chief Cabin Crew at Kozhikode, on the rolls of Air India and they do not pose a threat to Civil Aviation operations to the best of his knowledge. However, the 2nd respondent issued Ext.P6 letter to the Airport Director stating that no Airport Entry Permit be issued to the petitioners till further orders.
8. As per Rule 90(1) of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, no person shall enter or be in the terminal building of any Government Aerodrome or Public Aerodrome or part of such building or any other area in such Aerodrome notified by the Central Government unless he holds an admission ticket issued by the Commissioner of Security (Civil Aviation) or any person authorised by the Central Government. Paragraph 11.10 of the AEP Guidelines, 2019 provides that the decision of the Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security shall be final in cases where an FIR is registered or a case is pending before a Court in India.
9. The question arising for consideration is whether the 2nd respondent has exercised his powers on issuance of Entry Passes to the petitioners, in a judicious manner. The AEP Guidelines at paragraph 11.9.1 and 11.9.2, enumerate the serious crimes which have to be taken into consideration while granting Aerodrome Entry Pass. They are:-
(i) Possession and use of hard drugs,
(ii) Trafficking in hard and soft drugs,
(iii) Trafficking in weapons or the illegal possession of weapons,
(iv) Assault, Extortion,
(v) Acts endangering public safety including acts of unlawful interference against Civil Aviation,
(vi) Sexual offences,
(vii) Membership of criminal organisation,
(viii) Burglary, fencing of stolen goods,
(ix) Embezzlement, fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation without restitution.
In this case, the criminal offences alleged against the petitioners are under Sections 354A, 509 read with Section 34 IPC, Section 119(b) of the Kerala Police Act, Section 66E of the Information Technolgy Act, 2000 and Section 3 read with Section 6 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
10. The Court of Sessions, Kozhikode in Ext.P3 order, after appreciating the FIR and other materials, has held that even if the entire case alleged against the accused persons is accepted, prima facie, there is no material to attract Section 354 IPC and that all other offences are bailable. Paragraphs 11.9.1 and 11.9.2 of the AEP Guidelines would show that respondents 1 and 2 can deny entry of persons into the Aerodrome only when such persons are accused of committing serious crimes of the nature enumerated therein. While exercising powers under Rule 90 of the Air Craft Rules, 1937 and considering the nature of the offence, respondents 1 and 2 are bound to consider the findings of a competent criminal court.
11. The Inspector of Police investigating the crime has stated in Ext.P4 that there is no objection on the part of the Police for issuing AEP to the petitioner. Their employer as per Exts.P3, P5 and P5(a) has stated that the petitioners do not pose any threat to civil aviation operations. Ext.P2 report of the enquiry held into the complaint by the Internal Complaints Committee of Air India has concluded that there is no concrete e
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vidence to the allegation that the petitioners have taken video in flight. None of these relevant materials have been taken into account while rejecting the AEP applications of the petitioners as per Ext.P6. Ext.P6 order of the 2nd respondent is therefore vitiated by non-consideration of relevant materials and non-application of mind. 12. The decision of the 2nd respondent in Ext.P6 is therefore set aside. There will be a consequential direction to respondents 1 and 2 to issue Airport Entry Permits to the petitioners provisionally forthwith. It is made clear that respondents 1 and 2 will be at liberty to take a decision afresh, with notice to the petitioners and taking into consideration Exts.P2 to P5(a) and any other documents/materials that may be placed by the petitioners before respondents 1 and 2. The writ petition is disposed of as above.