The Delhi High Court, on Monday, asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a tentative date for implementation of the revised duty time norms for pilots.

There has to be a time limit for implementation and it can not be postponed indefinitely, Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain observed while hearing writ petitions challenging the DGCA rules on pilots duty hours.

“We are concerned about the safety of passengers,” Justice Jain said. DGCA has been asked to find out from airlines their preparedness regarding implementation of the revised rules and submit details at the next hearing in May.

The DGCA in January amended the rules governing pilot work hours. The revision included increase in weekly rest period from 36 to 48 hours. Originally, the revised rule was to come into effect from June 1. However it’s implementation was put on hold due to objections from airlines. 

On Monday, Advocate Neetika Bajaj who appeared for the Indian Pilots Guild argued that DGCA put the duty time rule on hold without inviting comments from stakeholders. This is in violation of Aircraft Rules 1937, she said. DGCA counsel Anjana Gosain said the regulator has the power to make an amendment to rule in a public interest without inviting comments. 

Pilots’ stand

Gosain also asked the pilots to make their stand clear on the issue. The pilots want the DGCA to implement the rule by June 1 and yet seem to have objections. Indian Commercial Pilots Association counsel Sanjay Ghose said there is a definite improvement in January 2024 rules over previous norms. He said the union will file its objections after DGCA reverts with a timeline.

While pilots have largely welcomed the rules as it will improve safety and reduce fatigue, airlines opposed June 1 deadline as it would increase staffing requirements.

While the High Court has clubbed three writ petitions on the issue, a fourth one challenging the issue of rules also came up for hearing on Monday.

Aviation safety expert Amit Singh, who has filed the petition, said, amended rules are also a half baked effort by the regulator and these will not address issue of fatigue. He said the rules are inconsistent with international norms and called for an expert committee to frame rules. 

The DGCA, however, opposed Singh’s plea and said the plea is not maintainable as he works for an airline in West Asia. Justice Jain agreed to hear the matter separately on April 25, said advocate Pranav Sachdeva.