The number of suspensions of pilot in India has been increasing over the years. This excludes the ones under the breath analyzer positive regulations. Suspension of the flying license is the harshest measure that DGCA can take as a deterrent in order to preserve safety.
DGCA State Safety Policy
DGCA will foster and assist stakeholders in developing comprehensive Safety Management Systems (SMS) and will develop preventive safety strategies for the aviation system in an environment of a “just culture”.
CAR Sec I, Ser C, Part I
Just Culture: It is a culture in which personnel are:
- not punished for actions, omissions or decisions taken by them which are commensurate with their experience and training, but
- where gross negligence, wilful violations and destructive acts are not tolerated.
Therefore the investigation must determine the root cause/es in order to distinguish between 1 and 2 above. So far, the regulator has not established the root cause, completed the investigation yet managed to merge points 1 & 2 above. The net effect is that punitive action has been taken arbitrarily and to the detriment of the minimal safety culture which had been in existence.
Principles of DGCA India Enforcement Policy ( Download the manual here)
The ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ is based on the concept that the powers held by Government officers are, in fact, powers that originate with the people, and are entrusted/ delegated to the government officers only as a means of exercising governance and with the sole objective that such powers shall be exercised in good faith for the benefit of the people.
Powers exercised contrary to the ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ would amount to abuse of powers and contravene the rule of law.
In the process of ensuring enforcement, the officers shall invariably be guided by the following principles:
- Natural Justice and Accountability
In the exercise of his discretion, the Officer/Inspector should be guided by the following general approach (DGCA EM, Introduction):
- A person who reports making an honest mistake should generally not be prosecuted or fined, nor should their license, certificate or authority be suspended or cancelled for reasons of punishment.
- There should be a measured response to less serious contraventions of the safety rules and procedures which may involve counseling and training rather than either criminal prosecution or the suspension or cancellation of licenses, certificates or authorities or imposition of any monetary penalties.
- People who consciously and wilfully choose to operate outside the rules or procedures and thereby put the lives of members of the public including the passengers or property at risk should be prosecuted and removed from the industry.
- Notification (CAR Sec 5, Ser 5, Part I), sub-rule (2) of rule 1 of the Aircraft (Investigation of Accidents & incidents) Rules 2012.
- Processing of occurrence/incident reports (CAR Sec 5, Ser 5, Part I), (Air Safety Procedure Manual Part II) : Occurrence data shall be assessed and analysed in order to detect safety hazards which may not be apparent to individual operators and where appropriate to issue specific advice or instructions to particular sections of the industry.
- Investigation (CAR Sec 5, Ser 5, Part I)
- Timeline for completion of investigation (CAR Sec 5, Ser 5, Part I)
- The investigation report and evidence will be shared with the pilot.
- Determination of severity (Enforcement manual)
- Show cause notice will be sent stating the regulation which has been violated.
- Alongwith, an informal meeting letter will be sent by DGCA to give an opportunity to explain.
- Administrative/Judicial action a. Oral counseling b. Warning c. Suspension
- Appeal process: If any person is aggrieved by an order passed by an officer in exercise of a power conferred on him by these rules or delegated to him under rule 3A, he may prefer an appeal to the next higher officer within sixty days of the date of the order subject to the condition that not more than two appeals shall be filed in any one case. The next higher officer in case of Director-General shall be the Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Crew must refer to the relevant sections of the DGCA Enforcement manual for more exhaustive information.
To summarize, the state safety policy lays emphasis on the benefits of safety culture and an environment of just culture. However, the opposite is being practiced and the bond of trust is being destroyed by targeting pilots and using the harshest means of punitive action as a deterrence for any occurrence. In this environment where there is blatant misuse and violation of the public trust doctrine amounting to abuse of power by the regulator, the pilots must read the provisions of the DGCA regulation s carefully and use all options available to demand a just and fair process be established.