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Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 passed by Parliament, after RS approval


The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed by the Parliament on September 15, 2020 after it was approved by the Rajya Sabha. It was passed by The Lok Sabha earlier on March 17th. The bill aims at amending the Aircraft Act, 1934 which regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft, and licensing of aerodromes. It also includes transformation of the three existing regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) into statutory bodies.

The three regulatory bodies include the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). The bill mentions that each of the bodies is to be headed by a Director General who will be appointed by the central government. It also empowers the central government to issue directions to these authorities on the concerned matters. By this, the legislation gives a new definition to the three bodies. It makes the three regulatory Aviation bodies more effective, which in turn, increases the level of security and safety in the aircraft operations of the nation.

DGCA would carry out regulatory and safety oversight functions on matters under the Bill.

The authority of BCAS is likely to discharge regulatory oversight functions related to civil aviation security.

AAIB is entitled to carry out investigations related to aircraft accidents and incidents.

The Central Government has been given the power to legislate over various matters under this act including the registration of aircraft, regulating air transport services, the prohibition of flight over any specified area. It also adds up the ruling of air navigation services to this list.


The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also mentions provisions that empower the centre give power to the Director General or any other authorized officer to issue directions and formulate 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 lower than the position of Deputy Secretary to adjudicate penalties under the Bill. The appealing against the designated officer’s order to an appellate officer in certain matters can also be done. The appeals, however, must be filed within 30 days of receiving the order.


Offences

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.


Penalties

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 lift up the maximum limit of the fine for the offenses from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 empowers the central government to cancel licences, certificates or approvals granted to an individual under the Act if the person contravenes any of the provisions incorporated in the Act.

The bill proposes that only equivalent or superior courts 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 center.

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.


References

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020


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