The Aircraft Act,1934 gives the central government the power to exempt certain aircraft, make rules to implement the convention of 1994, make regulations, issue directions, make orders in times of emergency, make rules for investigation of accidents and incidents and the power to detain aircraft. The bill also regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft and licensing of aerodromes. Recently, an amendment to the act was brought in the parliament this year to make it more effective.
The Aircraft Amendment Bill was passed in the upper house of the Parliament on March 17, 2020, through a voice note. It was tabled into the house by Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri. This amendment has been brought to convert existing regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry into statutory bodies and bring them under Aircraft Act, 1934. Also, this amendment will help to fulfil the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Why the amendment?
An audit was conducted in the years of 2012 and 2015, which suggested that in order to make the Aircraft Act, 1934 more effective and penalizing, certain changes have to be brought to the act. So, in order to increase the strictness of the offences and amount of the penalties and most importantly enable designated officers to take matters into their hands to implement laws and take strict action when needed, the amendment was brought and passed in March 2020.
The three bodies are Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Aircrafts Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB). The amendment aims to make the three bodies more effective so that the air transportation system is made safer and sounder. The three bodies will be governed by a Director-General who will be appointed by the central government. The government will have the right to guide and issue narratives on these bodies as an authoritative act.
Earlier, the duties and responsibilities were limited, as, after the amendment, the tasks to be performed will increase. Functions of the three authorities will be as follows:-
DGCA– regulatory and safety oversight functions will be performed by this body.
BCAS– safety oversight functions of the civil aviation security will be looked upon by this body.
AAIB– this body will be performing the most crucial function of investigating aircraft accidents and incidents.
Also, the amendment will help the government to:-
- Registration of aircraft
- Regulate air transport services
- Prohibit flight over any specified area
- Regulate air navigation services
It would also allow the central government to direct the DG or any other officer to:-
- Issue directions and make rules on some issues like-
- Inspection of an aircraft
- Conditions in which an aircraft can fly
- Measures to safeguard civil aviation
- Prohibit acts of unlawful interference
The bill also proposes to appoint designated officers to devise penalties under the bill. Officers until Deputy Secretary can be appointed to look into the matter. If somebody is against the order made by the appointed officer, he/she may appeal against the order to an appellate officer. The appeal must be made within 30 days of the order being passed.
The bill also aims to penalize the concerned if need be for violating any of the rules mentioned under this act devised after the amendment. Offences that are punishment worthy have been mentioned in the act, and some of them are as follows:-
- Carrying arms, ammunition, explosives or any other dangerous good aboard
- Breaching any rule whatsoever under the act
- Carrying out any construction activity within the specified radius around an aerodrome reference point
Along with minding these offences, it should be noted that violation of any of these or caught doing any of these would mean that he/she may be penalized for the act. The penalties would be as follows:-
- Imprisonment up to two years
- Fine up to Rs 10 lakh
- The limit can be raised up to 1 crore.
- Certificates, approvals, licenses granted to anyone violating any of these may be cancelled, including the ones who provide the service of repairing, establishing air transport service or aerodromes.
- Compounded offences of flying to cause harm to person/property, violating DG’s directions will be taken up by the centre.
The cases will be heard and verdict in different courts. Courts equivalent or superior to a magistrate of the first class or metropolitan magistrate may hear the offences under the act and give their verdict.
The bill also provides some exemption to particular groups of people/property of certain organizations and authorities. For example, any aircraft belonging to Indian Air Force, Navy or the Army will be exempted from any provision of the act. Also, any aircraft belonging to any kind of other national armed force will be exempted from the provisions of the act.