The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to bring the Aircraft Act, 1934 in line with the internationally accepted standards, procedures and practices as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons annexed to it, the 2012 and 2105 audits conducted by the ICAO indicated a need to amend the Aircraft Act:
-to give proper recognition to the regulators under the Act;
-to empower the departmental officers; and
-to enhance the maximum quantum of fines;
It is in this backdrop, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal introducing the Bill on behalf of Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said, that the amendments were being proposed.
To give effect to the first two recommendations made by the ICAO, the Bill converts the following three existing bodies under the Ministry of Civil Aviation into statutory bodies:
Each of these bodies will be headed by a Director General, as appointed by the central government.
Offences and Penalties
Presently, the Act prescribes a penalty of imprisonment of up to two years or of fine up to Rs 10 lakh, or both, for offences such as: (i) carrying arms, explosives, or other dangerous goods aboard aircraft, (ii) contravening any rules notified under the Act, and (iii) constructing building or structures within the specified radius around an aerodrome reference point.
In line with the third recommendation of the ICAO, the Bill proposes to raise the maximum limit on fines for all these offences from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore.
The Bill provides for appointment of designated officers, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary to adjudicate penalties under the Bill. An appeal against the order of a designated officer may be made before an appellate officer, within 30 days.
Exemption for Armed Forces
The Bill exempts Aircraft belonging to the naval, military, or air forces of the Union from the provisions of the Act. However, aircrafts 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.
Inter alia, the Bill also provides for control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft; and regulation of all areas of air navigation services.
During the discussion on the Bill, many members raised the issue of high prices of airline turbine fuel. Addressing the same, Civil Aviation Minister said that the same may be taken care of by the GST Council by bringing it under GST.
The members also widely opposed the privatization of Air India, responding to which Puri said that the company had been facing consistent losses and with the recent Coronavirus scare, their finances are likely to worsen. Thus, selling the company was essential though he assured that none of the employees of Air India will face its repercussions.
That apart, the MPs also suggested that the Bill should prescribe more stringent measures for safety of passengers, standard of aircrafts and quality of air transport services.
The Bill will now be tabled before the Rajya Sabha.
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