Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 passed by Lok Sabha
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020 through a voice vote. The bill seeks to covert three regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) into statutory bodies.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was tabled in the lower house of the Parliament by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. The Minister said that the amendments would fulfill the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The bill proposes to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934, which regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft and licensing of aerodromes.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aims to enable the three regulatory Aviation bodies to become more effective, which will, in turn, increase the level of security and safety in the aircraft operations of the nation.
Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020: Key Features
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 proposes to convert three existing regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry into statutory bodies under the Aircraft Act, 1934.
The three regulatory bodies include:
1. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
2. Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)
3. Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB)
The three authorities will then be headed by a Director-General, who will be appointed by the central government. The central government will also be empowered to issue directions to these authorities on concerned matters.
Functions of the three authorities
DGCA: It will carry out regulatory and safety oversight functions concerning matters under the Bill.
BCAS: The authority will discharge regulatory oversight functions related to civil aviation security.
AAIB: The body will carry out investigations related to aircraft accidents and incidents.
Under the Act, the central government may make rules on several matters including registration of aircraft, regulating air transport services, the prohibition of flight over any specified area. The amendment bill adds the regulation of air navigation services to this list.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also proposes to allow the centre to empower the Director General or any other authorised officer to issue directions and make rules on certain matters including inspection of aircraft, conditions under which an aircraft may be flown and measures to safeguard civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference.
The bill also proposes the appointment of designated officers, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary to adjudicate penalties under the Bill. Those concerned have the option of appealing against the designated officer’s order to an appellate officer. The appeals, however, must be filed within 30 days of receiving the order.
The Aircraft Act, 1934 mandates penalty for the following offences:
(i) Carrying explosives, arms or any other dangerous goods aboard an aircraft
(ii) Contravening any rules notified under the Act
(iii) Constructing buildings or structures within the specified radius around an aerodrome reference point.
The Aircraft Act, 1934 proposes penalty including imprisonment up to two years or fine up to Rs 10 lakh or both for the above-listed offences. The amendment bill proposes to raise the maximum limit of the fine for the offences from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
Further, the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 allows the central government to cancel licences, certificates or approvals granted to an individual under the Act if the person contravenes any of the act’s provisions. The licences include those issued for the operation, repair and maintenance of aircraft, the establishment of an air transport service and the establishment of aerodromes.
The bill also proposes the compounding of certain offences under the Act including flying to cause danger to any person or property, contravention to any directions issued by the Director General of the regulatory bodies. The offences may be compounded by the Director General as prescribed by the centre. However, compounding of offences will not be allowed in case of repeat offences.
Further, the bill proposes that only courts equivalent or superior to a magistrate of the first class or metropolitan magistrate may hear the offences under the Act.
The aircraft belonging to the Indian Air Force, Navy or the Army will be exempted from the provisions of the Aircraft Act. The amendment bill expands the exemption to include aircraft belonging to any other armed force of the nation. However, the aircraft belonging to any other armed force, which currently fall under the Act’s regulation will continue to do so until orders by the centre.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation had conducted an audit in 2012 and 2015, which highlighted the need to amend the Act to give due recognition to the regulatory bodies and enhance the maximum limit of the penalties and empower the department officers to impose financial penalties for violations of the legal provisions.