Rajya Sabha on Tuesday (September 15) passed The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020, which seeks to provide statutory status to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
What will change when this Bill becomes law?
The latest amendments to the Aircraft Act of 1934 seek to expand the role of the two regulators — DGCA and BCAS — and of the AAIB.
The DGCA, which is the aviation safety regulator, will be empowered to impose penalties for certain violations in addition to increasing the maximum penalty limit to Rs 1 crore from the existing Rs 10 lakh.
However, the amendments will also now allow the Ministry of Civil Aviation 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.
But why are these amendments being made to the Aircraft Act?
The Aircraft Act of 1934 was enacted to make provisions 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 for carrying out civil aviation operations as per internationally accepted standards, procedures and practices as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
From time to time, the government has made amendments to the Act to meet the evolving global and Indian aviation scenario. The various changes that needed to be made necessitated amendments to the Aircraft Act.
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So, what was the trigger for these changes now?
The ICAO, under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and the Universal Security Audit Programme, regularly conducts safety and security audits of all countries which are signatory to the Chicago Convention to ensure they are carrying out their safety and security oversight functions.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States also conducts safety audits of countries whose airlines operate to the US under its International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme.
India, as a signatory, is also subjected to periodic audits by ICAO and the FAA. According to government sources, the audits conducted by the ICAO in 2012 and 2015 indicated a need to amend the Aircraft 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 rulemaking purposes under Section 5 of the Act.