The Aircraft Act, 1934: Background, Purpose and Objective

In India the earliest legislation that has been formulated to regulate the aviation industry was the Indian Airships Act of 1911. The Act has been enacted with the intent to control the possession, manufacture, import and export, use, and the sale of the Airships. However, in India till the late twentieth century there was no recurring flying operations carried out except the Humber flights in 1911.Further, the manufacturing, sale and the allied activities of the aircraft were not even commenced in India. Hence, the Act and the regulations on such activities appeared to be equally ludicrous. Thereafter, the Aircraft Act, 1934 was enacted.

Historical Background

In the British India, the aerial navigation was predominantly regulated by the Indian Aircraft Act of 1911. The delegates of 27 countries signed the International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation in 1919 and wherein India also ratified. The main objective of the Convention was to harmonising the rules  internationally relating to the aviation and universal application of laws for the peaceful cooperation of various nations through the means of aerial navigation.The Act of 1911 was in operation; however, it was observed that the Act had certain shortcomings. First, the provisions of the Act were inefficacious to manage the air traffic effectively and secondly, in 1919 on ratifying the International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation, the Act was inadequate to implement the obligations of India.

Therefore, in order to meet the changing demands of the time it was  decided to expand the powers of the then Governor General in Council to form rules and laws. Moreover, in order to implement the provisions of the International Convention, the government was given wider power and thus, the Indian Aircraft Bill was introduced in the Parliament. The Indian Aircraft Bill was passed in the Legislature and on 19th August, 1934 received the assent of the Governor General. On the Statute Book it came to be known as the Indian Aircraft Act, 1934. Later, in the year 1960 the word “Indian” has been omitted by section 1 of the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, 1960 and now it is referred as “The Aircraft Act, 1934.”

Objectives and Purpose of the Act

Regarded as the basic or the fundamental law of aviation in India, the Aircraft Act, 1934 was adopted in the quest to increase the safety and security of aviation industry. In India, it is the foremost statute to regulate the civil aviation. The provisions of the statute predominantly cover every facet of the civil aviation navigation.

The purpose of the Aircraft Act, 1934 is “to make better provision for the control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft.”3 Further, the Act grants or vests the power in the governmental authorities to formulate rules and laws concerning the civil aviation in India. Moreover, requiring the considerations for effective, maintenance of aircraft, air worthiness, registration of aircraft, common situations for flying and safety, and the conduct of inquiries in case of any inconsistency.

One of the objectives of the Act is to provide secure and safe aircraft operations to be carried out by the State. Thus, this is the reason behind vesting the government with enormous powers. The Aircraft Act, 1934 also covers under it the issue of maintenance, development as well as the operations of all kinds of airports including the Greenfield airports.

Moreover, to regulate the air transport, air safety, airworthiness standards as well as for the enforcement of civil air regulations, the Act has appointed the director general of civil aviation as the regulatory body to deal with these concerns of the civil aviation.

Salient Features

The Aircraft Act, 1934 has been enacted to bring sea changes in the existing legal regime of the Indian aviation sector. Many provisions have been introduced to provide good regulatory framework and security to the aerial navigation. Following are some of the noteworthy features of the Aircraft Act, 1934: The Act “extends to the whole of India” and it applies to the following:

  1. “to citizens of India wherever they may be;
  2. to, and to the persons on, aircraft registered in India wherever they my be;
  3. to, and to the persons on, aircraft registered outside India but for the time being in or over India; and
  4. to an aircraft operated by a person who is not a citizen of India but has his principal place of business or permanent residence in India.”

The Act has given the Central government the power to exempt certain categories of aircraft from the applicability of the Act. Section 3 of the Aircraft Act provides that through the notification in the Official Gazette, the Central Government can exempt all or any of the provisions, to “any aircraft or class of aircraft and any person or class of persons, or may direct that such provisions shall apply to such aircraft or persons subject to such modifications as may be specified.” Moreover, to implement the provisions of the 1944 Convention, the Central Government has been vested with power to make laws under this Act. The Section provides that Central Government can draft “such rules as appear to it to be necessary for carrying out the Convention relating to International Civil Aviation signed at Chicago on the 7th day of December, 1944 (including any Annex thereto relating to international standards and recommended practices).”

With reference to the matters and issues indicated in this Act or the rules made thereunder, the Director General of Civil Aviation or other officer are empowered by the government to carry out the safety oversight functions. Another feature of the Act has been highlighted in Section 5. The Act confers rule making power to the Central Government. The government can “make rules regulating the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import or export of any aircraft or class of aircraft and for securing the safety of aircraft operations.” Further, rules can be formulated on “the regulation of air transport services,” the economic regulation of civil aviation and air transport services, ”licensing, inspection and regulation of  aerodromes,” “the inspection and control of the manufacture, repair and maintenance of aircraft and of places where aircraft are being manufactured, repaired or kept,” “ the registration and marking of aircraft,” “ the conditions under which aircraft may be flown, or may carry passengers, mails or goods.”

Important Provisions

Power of Central Government to make rules:

  • Section 5 empowers the government to make rules on matters laid in the Section but such power is subject to the provisions laid down in Section 14 of the Act.
    • In case of accidents, the Central Government can call for an investigation as per Section 7 of the Act.
    • Rules for the protection of the public health can be made by the Central Government. Section 8 states that rules can be formed to prevent the danger which has been aroused to the health of the public “by the introduction or spread of any infectious or contagious disease from aircraft arriving at or being at any aerodrome and for the prevention of the conveyance of infection or contagion by means of any aircraft leaving an aerodrome.”
    • For securing safe custody and re-delivery of unclaimed property, under Section 8C, the government has been vested with the right to make laws.

Power of Central Government to make orders:

  • In case of emergency order can be made as per Section 6 of the Act.
    • Section 8 gives the power to the government to detain the aircraft in certain cases.
    • For safeguarding the health of the public, emergency powers have been conferred on the authorities for the proper control.


  • In case of contravention of any of the rules made under this Act, the Act imposes a penalty according to Section 10. Imprisonment of two years and fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees will be imposed on a person if he carries in aircraft any arms, explosives or other dangerous goods. Further, if a person “slaughter and flaying of animals and of depositing rubbish, filth and other polluted and obnoxious matters within a radius of ten kilometres from the aerodrome reference point”then he shall be liable for imprisonment of three years and a fine of ten lakh rupees or with both.
    • Section 11 lays down the penalty for flying which causes danger. The person “shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh  upees, or with both.”

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