While American Airlines has put a ban on Aryan Vohra – a student who urinated on a fellow passenger, the 21-year-old can still fly in other foreign and domestic air carriers, as Indian civil aviation norms cannot be enforced in foreign air carriers, experts reveal. “Yes, he can fly with other foreign and domestic airlines because foreign airlines are not regulated by Indian civil aviation norms,” said Arun Kumar, who has just retired as director general, of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Aviation expert Amit Singh, who runs NGO Safety Matters Foundation, said Vohra cannot be put on the ‘No Fly List’.
”Unless DGCA in India issues some special direction, Vohra cannot be put in the ‘No Fly List’ and this enables him to enjoy flying with any airline other than American Airlines,” Singh said.
He further said, “This incident has thrown open an interesting scenario. The existing law operates differently for two sets of unruly passengers. It imposes a ban on the person who has urinated on a passenger on an Indian aircraft whereas no such action can be taken against another person for a similar offence on a foreign-registered plane.”
According to the DGCA’s Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) related to unruly passengers, whenever a person shows unruly behaviour on board a flight, the airline concerned will immediately inform DGCA within 12 hours and impose a flying ban on him/her for 30 days pending investigation.
The airline will then constitute an internal committee (comprising a retired district judge and two aviation experts) which will examine the level of offence for the purpose of deciding the duration of the flying ban. Once the internal committee finalises its report and decides on the ban period, the airline will communicate the same to the DGCA.
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The DGCA will put the person on the ‘No Fly List’ and it is communicated to all the airlines in India so that they cannot allow the unruly passenger to fly during the ban period.
“American Airlines is under no obligation to constitute an internal committee and follow due process. Unless due process is followed, the question is how will Vohra’s name be included in the ‘No Fly List’ Will the DGCA do suo moto on the basis of the FIR lodged? It is an important question,” advocate Akshat Bajpai, who represents Shankar Mishra in an Air India urination case, said.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the State of registration of the aircraft is competent to exercise its jurisdiction over offences and acts committed on board.
This might have helped Vohra to evade legal action in India because American Airlines is registered with the US.
However, Section 188 of the CrPC allows Indian law enforcement agencies to prosecute an Indian citizen for offences committed on an aircraft registered with a foreign country.
Aviation expert Singh said the shortcomings of the current regulations which prevent the regulators from enforcing unruly passenger rules on foreign carriers have been covered by the ICAO Montreal Protocol 2014. This protocol enables States other than the State of registration of aircraft to exercise jurisdiction over unruly passengers.
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“A number of countries have either not signed the amendment or not ratified it. India is the latter case. It is now incumbent on ICAO to ensure that all countries ratify the amendment since an unruly passenger on board is a global concern and the numbers are rising by the day,” Singh said.
The experts also said that besides the issue of unruly passengers, there are several aviation safety-related issues where the ratification of the Montreal Protocol 2014 by all countries can be extremely helpful.