Eyebrows are being raised over the manner in which the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has for the first time invoked the archaic Aircraft Rules, 1937, to delay the launch of the AirAsia-Tata Group joint venture (JV) AirAsia India in the country by entangling
it in red tape. There are fears that the other Tata JV, with Singapore Airlines (SIA), could be delayed as well using the same rules.
The DGCA has used the rules to ask for public feedback on the application of AirAsia India to start services in the country throwing a
spanner in the works of the foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal. A top DGCA official told Mail Today that they have received some objections against AirAsia India’s application. The official pointed out that if the DGCA does not approve AirAsia India’s flying permit by February 20, the airline would again have to get a fresh no-objection certificate (NoC) from the civil aviation ministry.
The DGCA had given 30 days to the public on January 13 to submit its feedback on AirAsia India, which means that it is only after February 13 that it will study the objections and then send a notice to the carrier. This leaves a mere seven days for the DGCA to first study the objections and then send the notice to AirAsia so that the airline can furnish its reply. The response would have to be examined by the DGCA to arrive at a conclusion.
Consequently, it would be extremely difficult for AirAsia India to meet the February 20 deadline leading to lapse of its NoC and the cumbersome procedure of applying for a certificate all over again. The DGCA official also clarified that once AirAsia India got the NoC, the DGCA should not have invoked the archaic rules.
Another DGCA official pointed out that the regulator did not invoke the old rules, which made it mandatory for receiving public opinion, in the case of the Jet-Etihad deal. Till 1997-98, the DGCA had powers to give NoC and flying permits to start-ups.
However, since then, issuing NoCs has become the prerogative of the ministry and the DGCA is only authorised to look into facts concerning granting of the permit, the official added.
DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar did not reply to phone calls and text messages sent by Mail Today on the issue. Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had fast- tracked the Jet- Etihad deal but has moved rather slowly on the AirAsia- Tata and Tata- SIA proposals. In fact, Singh had caused confusion last year by stating that the AirAsia-Tata JV could face procedural issues as there was a lack of clarity whether FDI was allowed by foreign carriers in new airline ventures.
However, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion had overruled Singh’s contention on the AirAsia- Tata JV.