The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Centre and the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to consider objections that may be received on the Draft Civil Aviation Requirements – Validity of Foreign Licence of Flight Crew, pursuant to a notification on the DGCA website. The requirements should be finalised within four months.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, passed the order while disposing of a petition by the Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots, Mumbai.

In its public interest litigation petition, the petitioner sought to declare ultra vires a portion of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) as revised on August 8 last year regarding minimum experience requirement for engagement as Pilot-in-Command under the Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA) and the DGCA's practice of permitting airlines to have different medical standards for pilots engaged under FATA and Indian pilots.

The petitioner's complaint was that the experience requirement, particularly the one relating to medical fitness for foreign pilots, was lower than that prescribed for their Indian counterparts. This was discriminatory and arbitrary. The lower standards led to several incidents, the most recent being the air crash at the Mangalore airport. The DGCA issued the FATA to enable airline operators in India to engage foreign pilots to tide over the temporary shortfall of experienced Indian pilots.

Amendments cited

Additional Solicitor-General of India M. Ravindran submitted that by virtue of amendments to CAR dated June 8 this year, identical medical standards as applicable to Indian pilots had been incorporated for application to foreign pilots as well.

As per the existing policy of the Civil Aviation Ministry, expatriate pilots of various operators were considered for validation of their foreign licences up to July 31, 2011 subject to compliance of CAR.

To ensure that airline operators did not engage FATA pilots in a routine manner, the government had restricted the permission under the authorisation up to July 2011. During this period, phasing out of foreign pilots would be monitored.

The proposed revision of Draft CAR on validation of foreign licences in respect of expatriate pilots had been made available on the DGCA's website for comments from July 23 to August 22 and the petitioner was at liberty to express its views.

The Bench observed that due to developments which took place after the writ petition was entertained, it appeared that the discrimination hitherto adopted had been done away with. It said it found no error in the manner in which the medical fitness assessment had been prescribed in the Draft CAR. In any event, it had been published on the DGCA's website and comments invited. It would be open to the petitioner to place all their objections before the competent authority for consideration.