New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) A Bill to convert existing three bodies under the Ministry of Civil Aviation into statutory bodies and to regulate the manufacture, possession and other related matters to civil aircraft was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday with voice vote.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 converts the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft and licensing of aerodromes.

Each of these three bodies will be headed by a Director General who will be appointed by the Centre.

The Bill seeks amendment to the Aircraft Act, 1934. It was passed in the Lok Sabha after over four-hour discussion in which 16 MPs of various political parties participated.

The Bill was on Tuesday moved in the House by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who introduced it in the house on February 4, 2020.

In his concluding address to the House following the debate, Puri said the amendment is being brought in 2020 to try to a limited extent bring the Indian Aircraft Act, 1934 up to date in the important area of aircraft and civil aviation security and management of the regulator DGCA. “This is a requirement which we should have felt many years ago,” said the Minister.

He said the need was highlighted by subsequent audits by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — a specialized agency of the United Nations which changes the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.

“We have no choice but to ensure that the three bodies which are crucial to the functioning of the civil aviation sector in India have the position as the statutory bodies. I am very happy that all members have agreed and broadly supported the thrust of these amendments which are door opening to privatisation of airports and utilise a large number of activities.”

“When we are transiting from being a $2.89 trillion economy to a $5 trillion economy, it means many more people will fly. This penetration rate is going up on 7-8 per cent, it will be up to 15 per cent. And the number of people who will fly will be many more,” said the minister.

The DGCA will carry out safety oversight and regulatory functions with respect to matters under the Bill. The BCAS will carry out regulatory oversight functions related to civil aviation security while the AAIB will carry out investigations related to aircraft accidents and incidents.

The Central government may issue directions to these authorities on matters related to their functions, if considered necessary in the public interest.

Under the Act, the Central government may make rules on several matters that include registration of aircraft, regulating air transport services, and prohibition of flight over any specified area.

The Bill adds the regulation of air navigation services to this list and also allows the centre to empower the Director General of BCAS or any authorised officer to issue directions and make rules on certain matters.

These matters include conditions under which an aircraft may be flown, inspection of aircraft, and measures to safeguard civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference. The Bill provides for the appointment of designated officers, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary to adjudicate penalties under the Bill.

Persons aggrieved by an order of a designated officer may appeal to an appellate officer. Appeals must be filed by the aggrieved person within 30 days from the day the order is received.

Under the Act, the penalty for various offences is imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, or both. These offences include carrying arms, explosives, or other dangerous goods aboard aircraft; contravening any rules notified under the Act, and constructing buildings or structures within the specified radius around an aerodrome reference point.

The Bill raises the maximum limit on fines for all these offences from Rs 10 lakh to Rs one crore. Aircraft belonging to the naval, military, or Air Forces of the Union are exempt from the provisions of the Act.

The Bill expands this exemption to include aircraft belonging to any other armed forces of the Union. However, aircraft belonging to an armed force other than the naval, military, and air forces which are currently regulated under the Act will continue to do so until specified otherwise by the Central government.

–IANS

rak/prs

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