RSTV: THE AIRCRAFT (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020
The government on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Aircraft Act whereby the fine amount for violations will be hiked from Rs 10 lakh to up to Rs 1 crore. The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also provides for keeping “aircraft belonging to any armed forces of the Union, other than naval, from military or air force outside the purview” of the Aircraft Act, 1934. Once the amendments are passed, the government would also have the power to issue directions to review, if necessary in public interest, any order passed by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau, as per the bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons. The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal as Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri was not present in the House. The proposed amendments to the Act were approved by the Union Cabinet in December. The Act pertains to control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft.
To tighten aircraft safety norms, the government decided to amend an eight-decade-old law for a 10-fold increase in penalties in light of recent incidents of technical snags reported by airlines.
Need and Analysis:
- The government is planning to amend the new law after a spike in the number of air safety violations or breaches in the recent past.
- The most controversial ones, involving Airbus A320neo planes fitted with Pratt and Whitney engines, could have had catastrophic consequences as many such aircraft have faced mid-air glitches.
- DGCA had asked IndiGo and GoAir, who still use this version of the aircraft, to install modified engines or replace the entire fleet of such planes
- There have also been many reports of planes facing other technical snags and could ultimately result in creating a sense of fear among passengers. This could be one of the reasons why the government wants to make aircraft operators more accountable.
- Generally, compoundable offences are those which can be settled by paying certain amount of money.
- Further, the bill seeks to empower the central government to constitute DGCA, BCAS and AAIB under the Act as well as specify their responsibilities.
- It would also bring regulations of all areas of air navigation services under the Act.
- The Act has provisions for securing the safety of aircraft operations in India and carrying out civil aviation operations as per standards, procedures and practices laid down by ICAO.
- As per the statement, ICAO audits, conducted in 2012 and 2015, have indicated a need to amend the Act to give proper recognition to the regulators under the Act.
- The amendments would fulfil the requirements of ICAO.
- This would enable the three regulatory bodies in the civil aviation sector in India, namely DGCA, BCAS and AAIB to become more effective, which would lead to enhancement in the level of safety and security of aircraft operations in the country, the release had said.
- Indian civil aviation sector has a high growth potential and at present, scheduled domestic carriers together have nearly 680 planes.
- The Economic Survey, tabled in Parliament on January 31, said that to continue with the high growth trajectory, the government has been providing a congenial environment so that the Indian carriers double their fleet from about 680 aircraft at the close of November 2019 to over 1,200 by FY 2023-24.
- ICAO, which is the United Nation’s global aviation watchdog, had carried out the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme for India in November 2017 and in February 2018. The audit result showed that the country’s score declined to 57.44% from 65.82% earlier, placing India below Pakistan and Nepal.
- An ICAO team had visited India in November 2018 as well, and assessed the action taken on issues related to three areas that were audited by the ICAO in November 2015. Those pertained to aerodromes and ground aids, air navigation services (ANS) and aircraft accident and incident investigation.
- Currently, India’s score is lower than the world average of 65% on the ICAO’s board.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- The Bill is intended to carry out amendments to the Aircraft Act, 1934 (XXII of 1934).
- The Bill enhances the maximum limit of fine from the existing ₹10 lakhs to ₹one crore.
- It also enlarges the scope of the Act to include regulation of all areas of air navigation.
- The proposed amendments would fulfill the safety requirements of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This will also enable the three regulatory bodies in the civil aviation sector in India—Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) to become more effective.
- This (the Bill) will lead to enhancement in the level of safety and security of aircraft operations in the country
- A few other provisions would also be made part of the law that will also help in complying with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) requirements.
- The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also provides for keeping “aircraft belonging to any armed forces of the Union, other than naval, from military or air force outside the purview” of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
- Other proposals include empowering BCAS or any authorised officer to issue directions, having designated officers for adjudging penalties and introducing a provision for compounding of offences.