The Delhi High Court, on Monday, sought responses from the Centre, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Jet Airways on a PIL alleging that the airlines have been violating national and international flight safety regulations by allowing unauthorized persons to travel aboard by "masquerading" as its crew on the basis of a "General Declaration" (GD).
A Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar issued notices on a Petition filed by a Delhi based journalist, Mr. Rajneesh Kapur.
The Petition submits that as per provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Montreal Convention, a GD is a declaration from the operator recognizing the passengers, aircrew, and cargo being ferried in an international flight. It states that in practice, most countries accept the furnishing of a GD along with a valid passport and a crew identity card by crew members in place of a visa for short duration stays, in order to facilitate the streamlining of international flight operations.
It then alleged that these provisions are being misused by the airlines, which is allegedly sending persons who are neither qualified/ licensed for the aircraft type nor have any duties assigned to them on board. It, in fact, cites several such instances where certain people had travelled abroad as flight crew members without having adequate licenses in place and had then travelled back to India as regular passengers.
The Petition cites another incident wherein the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had arrested a female crew member of Jet Airways in possession of contraband foreign currency worth over Rs 3 Crore. This incident, along with the irregularities noticed in the GDs has been relied on to allege a larger "criminal conspiracy to carry out a money laundering operation".
The alleged violations have further been demanded to be viewed as a security threat, submitting, "The illicit entry and exit of undocumented persons across international borders and inside the country is a critical security loophole which has the potential of being exploited by enemies of the state for carrying out attacks or espionage against India."
Besides this, the Petition relies on a DGCA report to allege that Jet Airways appoints pilots with lapsed proficiency checks, in violation of several provisions of the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR). It cites an RTI reply to further submit that 131 pilots of Jet Airways were operating with their Pilot Proficiency Checks (PPC) lapsed.
It submits, "The said airlines including the Respondent No. 3 routinely operated hundreds of commercial flights within India and on International routes using the services of pilots with lapsed/expired PPC certification, thereby compromising the safety and security of thousands of passengers. Even more critically, use of pilots who had not cleared the PPC in air operations invalidated the insurance for passengers in the event of accidents."
The Petition goes on to highlight several other lapses as well, such as lapsed examiner designations, and pilots leaving cockpits unattended midflight. Besides, it alleges a conflict of interest for officeholders at the DGCA, submitting that the regulator often hired employees of Jet Airways as its senior officials.
With such assertions, it blames the Centre and the DGCA for their inability in stopping such violations, submitting, "All of this has demonstrated the absolute inability and inefficacy of Respondent No. 1 and Respondent No. 2 to enforce rules and regulations enacted by themselves even after the violations committed by Respondent No. 3 have been brought to their knowledge time and again over the years. This inaction on the part of Respondent No. 1 and Respondent No. 2 leads to the inference that they cannot be trusted to enforce regulations in the civil aviation sector with the highly probable reason for the same being rampant collusion and/or corruption which has compromised their integrity of the Regulator to the core."
The Petition then demands constitution of a Special Investigation Team to conduct an inquiry into such security violations, and a stay on renewal of Air Operator’s Permit for Jet Airways pending such enquiry.
The Petition also seeks a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into violation of the CAR and other lapses, which it blames on the "oversight" of the Centre and the DGCA.