The Delhi High Court has directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider the PIL seeking investigation into the presence of 'optional safety features' in the airplanes in India and frame guidelines accordingly.
The Division Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice C Harishankar has directed the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider the PIL as a representation and decide the same expeditiously.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Yugansh Mittal seeking direction to the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to set up a commission to investigate the presence of 'optional safety features' in airplanes in India and framing of guidelines regulating the practice of having 'optional safety features' in airlines, while disposing of it.
The PIL has also sought directions to the respondents to collate and collect relevant information with regard to presence of optional safety features in airlines, inter alia, in regard to their availability, costs, planes installed on and other relevant details of the same and making mandatory for all aircrafts operating in India to have all optional safety features in aircrafts.
Senior advocate N Hariharan appearing for the petitioner contended that the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil aviation do not have adequate data regarding these optional safety features and their costs and whether aircraft in India have them installed or not.
He further contended that the DGCA and the Ministry do not have adequate guidelines regulating these optional safety features and that these safety features cannot be optional as their absence would endanger the lives of the passengers.
The petitioner has submitted that safety features need to be mandatory. It has stated that the practice of optional safety features is a closely-guarded secret and there is no information with the public on an issue that would directly affect their safety.
The PIL states that in the "aftermath of crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes leading to the death of almost hundreds of people, it was discovered that aircraft manufacturers including Boeing, who manufactured the two aircrafts that crashed, have an option which is provided to aircraft operators at the time of buying an aeroplane from the aircraft manufacturer of purchasable 'optional safety features'. Optional safety features could be anything, ranging from a fire extinguisher to a critical component such as lights and indicators required by the pilot to fly a plane. These optional safety features are often not purchased by airline operators, to save on costs."
"In the two crashed aeroplanes, the absence of a few of these optional safety features, which related to indicators and lights, are suspected to have played a part in the crashes of the two planes. These lights and indicators were essential for pilots flying the aircraft and were critical components, but were missing from the two aircraft which crashed. The low-cost budget airlines don't have any incentive to buy these optional safety features as they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the airlines opt not to," adds the petition.
Mittal in his plea alleged that an airline passenger has no idea whether those optional safety features are installed in the plane they are flying in or not.