New Delhi: ‘National carrier Air India shall be allowed to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats booking for next 10 days’, the Supreme Court observed on Monday. Notably, the court was hearing an urgent petition filed by Centre and Air India against Bombay High Court order that has directed the airline to keep middle seats vacant in international flights.Also Read - Tata Sons Senior Vice President Nipun Aggarwal to Lead Air India Management Committee: Report

The development comes on a day when domestic flight operations resumed across the country,(except WB and Andhra Pradesh), nearly two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Also Read - Unconstitutional And Irrational: SC Quashes Indefinite Suspension of 12 BJP MLAs From Maharashtra Assembly

“Airline regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India are free to alter any norms it may consider appropriate during the pendency of the matter”, said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde. Also Read - Welcome to The Future of...: All Air India Flights to Make THIS Special Announcement Tomorrow

The apex court, however, pulled up the Centre and DGCA for allowing booking of middle seats, saying,”You should be worried about the health of citizens, not about the health of commercial airlines”.

On the other hand, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre argued that keeping the middle seats vacant served no purpose as the flights have air circulation. To this, the CJI reportedly asked,”How can you say it will not affect anyone? Will the virus (novel coronavirus) know it’s in the aircraft and it’s not supposed to infect?”

Earlier on Sunday, the Bombay High Court had sought a response from the Air India and the DGCA on a petition of an AI pilot, claiming the airline was not following safety measures for COVID-19 while bringing back Indians stranded abroad.