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Who can enter various zones in an airport

The controversy over BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Manoj Tiwari entering the air traffic control (ATC) room at Jharkhand’s Deoghar airport has raised questions over who can and cannot enter various zones in an airport.

A person who is not a passenger with a valid ticket requires an Aerodrome Entry Permit (AEP) that is issued by the airport operator in concurrence with the security agency in charge of the airport. (File Photo)

Delhi Police have registered an FIR accusing the deputy commissioner of Deoghar of sedition after the IAS officer reported to the Jharkhand government that two BJP MPs had entered Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the airport and forced officials to clear their aircraft for take-off even though the airport does not have facilities for night operations.

According to a complaint filed with Jharkhand Police on September 1 by airport security in-charge Suman Anand, Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, North East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari, and some others including Dubey’s two sons violated “safety standards” by entering the ATC room the previous evening and pressuring officials to grant take-off clearance after the air services window had closed for the day.

On Saturday evening, the DC, Manjunath Bhajantri, and the MP, Dubey, accused each other of violating rules on entering restricted areas of the airport. The Delhi Police FIR, which is based on a complaint by Dubey, said the DC “had entered the Deoghar airport’s secured DRDO-restricted area where one goes only after PMO’s permission”. Bhajantri told The Indian Express that the FIR was “absurd” and “concocted”, and filed as an “afterthought…(after) getting caught violating security protocol”.

Who can enter an airport in India?

A person who is not a passenger with a valid ticket requires an Aerodrome Entry Permit (AEP) that is issued by the airport operator in concurrence with the security agency in charge of the airport. Typically, at the bigger airports, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) undertakes the security responsibilities, while at a smaller airport like Deoghar, it is the state police that manages security. The security in-charge of Deoghar airport is Deputy Superintendent of Police Suman Anand, who was the complainant in the case.

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What is the ATC in an airport?

Air traffic control, as the name suggests, is the traffic control room for aircraft at airports and in certain designated airspaces, from where ground-based air traffic controllers direct aircraft movements. The controllers use equipment including radar to track aircraft, and communicate with pilots over radio. The ATC complex typically has a tower, which may be attached to a building.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says “the primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system and to organize and expedite the flow of (air) traffic”. Under certain circumstances, the ATC may have security or defence responsibilities as well, and may be manned by military officers.

In this combo photo, BJP MPs Manoj Tiwari (left) and Nishikant Dubey (right). An FIR was registered against nine people, including BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Manoj Tiwari, for allegedly forcing Air Traffic Control (ATC) officials to provide clearance for their chartered flight to take off from Deoghar airport beyond the scheduled time on Aug. 31, officials said on Sept. 3, 2022. (PTI Photo)

Does an AEP authorise the holder to enter the ATC premises?

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It does not happen automatically; prior approval is needed to enter the ATC building. The AEP application form, which is issued by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), mentions 13 zones that a person can potentially enter. Among them are the arrivals hall, the departures hall, the terminal building, the security hold area, the apron area, the ATC building, the ATC tower, the cargo terminal building, etc.

However, the access authorisations are granted on a ‘need’ basis. For example, airline ground staff, who may have authorisation to enter the arrivals hall, the departures hall, the terminal building, and the security hold area, may not necessarily be authorised to enter the ATC tower or the ATC building.

Does a Member of Parliament have special privileges to enter airport premises?

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An order issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in October 2007 on the subject “Courtesy towards Members of Parliament at Airports” said a “Member of Parliament may be allowed free access in the Terminal building and Visitors Gallery on the basis of MPs Identity Card”.

However, the order did not state whether MPs were allowed to also enter ATC premises. The same order was circulated again by the Civil Aviation Ministry in January 2020.

First published on: 04-09-2022 at 17:02 IST
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