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Key Takeaways

  • Indian Airships Act of 1911 was country’s first legislation in the aviation sector.
  • The Aircraft Act of 1934 replaced the Airships Act and became the primary piece of legislation in the aviation sector.
  • The Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020 aims to make required changes in the Act.

Introduction

The Indian Airships Act of 1911 was the country's first piece of law to govern the aviation sector. The Act was passed to regulate the ownership, production, import and export, usage, and sale of airships. Except for the Humber flights in 1911, no regular flying operations were carried out in India until the late 20th century. Additionally, the aircraft's production, sale, and related operations have not yet started in India. As a result, both the Act and the rules governing these acts seemed absurd. The Aircraft Act, of 1934 was then passed.

Historical Background

The Indian Aircraft Act of 1911 primarily governed aerial navigation in British India. The International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation, which India also approved, was signed in 1919 by representatives of 27 nations. The fundamental goal was to harmonise international aviation regulations and ensure that all laws were applied equally in order to promote peaceful international cooperation through aerial navigation. The Act of 1911 was in effect, although it was noted that the Act had several drawbacks. First, the Act's provisions were insufficient to properly control air traffic, and second, when India ratified the International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation in 1919, the Act was insufficient to carry out India's commitments under the convention.

Therefore, it was determined to increase the authority of the then Governor-General in Council to enact regulations and laws in order to satisfy the evolving needs of the period. Additionally, the government was given more authority to carry out the International Convention's terms, leading to the introduction of the Indian Aircraft Bill into Parliament. The Indian Aircraft Bill was approved by the legislature and obtained the governor general's assent on August 19, 1934. It eventually acquired the name Indian Aircraft Act, 1934, in the Statute Book. Later, in 1960, Section 1 of the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, 1960 removed the phrase "Indian," and the law is now referred to as "The Aircraft Act, 1934."

Purpose of the Act

"To provide better provisions for the control of the manufacturing, possession, use, operation, sale, import, and export of aircraft" is the stated goal of the Aircraft Act of 1934. The Act also gives or vests in the government's ability to create regulations and legislation governing civil aviation in India. As well as demanding considerations for effectiveness, aircraft maintenance, airworthiness, registration, typical flying scenarios, safety, and the conduct of investigations in the event of any discrepancy.

The objective of the Act

The State's ability to conduct secure and safe aviation operations is one of the Act's goals. Therefore, this is the justification for giving the government such broad authority. The 1934 Aircraft Act also addresses the maintenance, expansion, and operation of all types of airports, including Greenfield airports.

Additionally, the Act designated the director-general of civil aviation as the regulatory authority to handle these problems of civil aviation in order to govern the air transport, air safety, and airworthiness requirements, as well as for the enforcement of civil air rules.

Salient Features

The Aircraft Act, of 1934 was passed in order to fundamentally alter the current legislative framework governing the Indian aviation industry. To ensure a solid regulatory framework and security for aerial navigation, several rules have been adopted. Here are a few characteristics of the 1934 Aircraft Act. These are covered under the Act:

  1. to citizens of India, wherever they may be
  2. to, and to the occupants of, aircraft registered in India, wherever they may be;
  3. to, and to the occupants of, aircraft registered outside of India, but temporarily over or in India; and
  4. to an aircraft operated by a non-Indian national who resides permanently or has his main place of business there.

Certain kinds of aircraft may be excused from the Act's coverage under the authority granted by the Act to the Central Government. According to Section 3 of the Aircraft Act, the Central Government may direct that any aircraft or class of aircraft, as well as any individual or group of individuals, be exempt from all or any of the provisions "or may direct that such provisions shall apply to such aircraft or individual(s) subject to such modifications as may be specified." Furthermore, the Central Government has been given the authority to enact legislation under this Act in order to carry out the 1944 Convention's requirements.

The Section states that the Central Government may create any laws that it deems essential to implement the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which was signed on the 7th day of December 1944. (Including any Annex thereto relating to international standards and recommended practices).

The Director-General of Civil Aviation or another official is authorised by the government to carry out the safety supervision responsibilities with respect to the problems and issues stated in this Act or the rules adopted thereunder. In Section 5, the Act's additional characteristic is emphasised. The Central Government is granted rule-making authority by the Act. In order to ensure the safety of aviation operations, the government is allowed to "establish laws controlling the manufacturing, possession, use, operation, sale, import, or export of any aircraft or class of aircraft."

Additionally, regulations can be made regarding "the regulation of air transport services," "the licencing, inspection, and regulation of aerodromes," and "the inspection and control of the manufacture, repair, and maintenance of aircraft and of places where aircraft are being manufactured, repaired, or kept," "the registration and marking of aircraft," and "the conditions under which aircraft may be flown or may carry passe."

Important Provisions

Power of Central Government to make rules

Section 5 gives the government the authority to issue regulations on the topics included in the Section, although this authority is constrained by the limits outlined in Section 14 of the Act.

According to Section 7 of the Act, the Central Government may request an investigation in the event of an accident.

The Central Government has the authority to enact regulations for the protection of public health. For the introduction or spread of any infectious or contagious disease from aircraft arriving at or being at any aerodrome, as well as for the prevention of the conveyance of infection or contagion by means of any aircraft leaving an aerodrome, rules have been raised to protect the public's health, according to Section 8.

In accordance with Section 8C, the government has been granted the authority to enact legislation to ensure the secure keeping and redistribution of unclaimed property.

Central government's authority to issue orders

Section 6 of the Act permits the making of emergency orders. In certain circumstances, the government may detain the aircraft under Section 8.Authorities have been granted emergency powers for the necessary control in order to protect the public's health.

Penalties

Penalties: The Act levies a penalty in accordance with Section 10 in the event that any of the regulations set under this Act are violated. A person who transports any weapons, explosives, or other dangerous things in an aeroplane faces a two-year prison sentence and a fine that might reach 10 lakh rupees. In addition, violators are subject to three years in jail, a fine of ten lakh rupees, or both if they "slaughter and flay animals and of depositing waste, dirt, and other filthy and objectionable things within a radius of 10 kilometres from the airport reference point.".

Section 11 specifies the punishment for dangerous flying. A fine of up to 10 lakh rupees or two years in prison, or maybe both, are possible penalties for the offender.

Case Laws

  • The Joint Action Committee of Airlines Pilots Association of India & Ors v. The Director-General of Civil Aviation & Ors [Civil Appeal No.3844 of 2011]

The Supreme Court in the judgement upheld Section 4A of the Aircraft Act 1934 which provides safety functions the DGCA shall perform and referred to Section 5(2) and 5-A of the Act which defines the measures to be taken for ensuring the safety of life.

  • Air India Express Limited & Others v. Capt.Gudarshan Kaur Sandhu [Civil Appeal No.6567 of 2019]

The Honourable Court had referred to Sections 5,7 and 8(2) of the Aircraft Act, on the matter of resignation of pilots without due notice being provided.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020

  • The DGCA, BCAS, and AAIB are the three regulators whose roles are being expanded by the most recent amendments to the Aircraft Act of 1934. The aviation safety regulator, the DGCA, would have the authority to impose fines for specific offences in addition to raising the maximum penalty ceiling from the current Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore. The modifications, however, also provide the Ministry of Civil Aviation the ability to examine any order made by the Directors General of Civil Aviation and Civil Aviation Security and to require them to revoke or alter such an order.
  • The Aircraft Act of 1934 was enacted to regulate the production, ownership, use, operation, sale, import, and export of aircraft. It contains provisions for ensuring the safety of aircraft operations in India and for conducting civil aviation operations in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) established standards, protocols, and practices. The Act has occasionally been amended by the government to reflect changes in the international and Indian aviation environments. The Aircraft Act needs to be modified in order to accommodate the different adjustments that were required.

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