The Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020, that empowers the levying of up to ₹ 1 crore as fine on airlines and airport operators, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The Bill which has already been passed by Lok Sabha in March and will amend the Aircraft Act, 1934. The Bill paved the way to increase the fine amount for violations of rules from ₹10 lakh to ₹1 crore for aviation industry players.
The Bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha by Union Civil Aviation Minister (Independent Charge) Hardeep Singh Puri will provide statutory status to regulatory institutions like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
GVL Narasimha Rao, Rajya Sabha MP of the BJP, NCP MP and Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Congress MP, K C Venugopal, Shiv Sena MP, Anil Desai, AAP’s Sanjay Singh, RJD’s Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha and CPI’s Binoy Vishwam were among MPs who spoke before the bill was passed by a show of hands.
Under the Bill, the central government may cancel the licences, certificates or approvals granted to a person under the Act if the person contravenes any provision of the Act.
The Aircraft Act, 1934 (the Act) was enacted to make better provision for the control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft. It makes provisions for securing the safety of aircraft operations in India and carrying out civil aviation operations as per the internationally accepted standards, procedures and practices as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao Participated in the debate on the Bill
Minor amendments in the Act have been carried out by way of addition/ deletion from time to time to meet the varying scenario of Indian and global civil aviation and to keep pace with changing times and developments in the field of civil aviation. India being the one of the fastest growing nation in the field of civil aviation, the regulatory framework of civil aviation needs not only to have effective regulatory mechanism but the regulations are also expected to facilitate safe, smooth and rapid growth of the sector in India.
Technological advancements/ changes in field of civil aviation has also necessitated review of regulatory mechanism which is based on the Act.
Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai speaking on the Bill
Further, the ICAO, under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and the Universal Security Audit Programme, conducts regular safety and security audits of all the countries which are signatory to the Chicago Convention to ensure that the signatories are fulfilling their obligation of safety and security oversight functions.
Former Civil Aviation Minister and NCP MP, Praful Patel speaking on the Bill
The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America also conducts safety audits of countries whose airlines operate to the United States of America under its International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme. India, as a signatory, is also subjected to such periodical audits by ICAO and Federal Aviation Administration.
AIADMK MP M. Thambidurai speaking on the Bill
The audit conducted by the ICAO in the years 2012 and 2015 have indicated a need to amend the Act to give proper recognition to the regulators under the Act, to enhance the maximum quantum of fines and to empower the departmental officers to impose financial penalties on individuals or organisations involved in violations of the legal provisions and to include certain areas of air navigation services for rule making purpose under section 5 of the Act.
Congress MP KC Venugopal speaks on the Bill
In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is aviation safety regulator and was the only main body regulating various aspects of Civil Aviation. However, over a period of time, on account of various administrative and operational requirements, two distinct organisations — Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) have been created through different notifications issued by Central Government and these bodies including DGCA needs to be defined in the parent Act.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh speaking on the Bill
With the expansion of field of civil aviation in India, it was felt that regulator of respective field of civil aviation needs to be empowered for imposition of penalty for certain violations through incorporating suitable enabling provision through rule-making on the aspect. The amount of penalties prescribed under various provisions of the Act for various violations/ offences also needed a review.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha speaking in the Bill
CPI MP Binoy Viswam speaking on the Bill
Accordingly, the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to give effect to the aforementioned decisions, inter alia, provides for the following and necessitated amendments to the Act.
a. to define the expressions “Directorate General of Civil Aviation”, “Bureau of Civil Aviation Security” and “Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau”;
b. to empower the Central Government to constitute the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau under the Act and to specify their responsibilities thereof;
c. to empower the Central Government to issue directions to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau on any matter if it is considered necessary so to do in public interest;
d. to empower the Central Government to review any order passed by the Director General of Civil Aviation and the Director General of Civil Aviation Security and also direct them to rescind or modify such order;
e. to include regulation of all areas of air navigation services;
f. to empower the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security or any authorised officer to issue directions;
g. to enhance the maximum limit of fine from the existing ₹10 lakh to ₹1 crore;
h. to appoint designated officers for adjudging penalties;
i. to provide for compounding of offences;
j. to keep aircraft belonging to any armed forces of the Union other than naval, military or air force outside the purview of the Act.