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A PIL filed today by lawyer Yugansh Mittal, brought the attention of the Delhi High court before a division bench of the Chief Justice and Justice C. Hari Shanker, to this issue of purchasable optional safety features in aircrafts. Considering the gravity and ramifications of the issue raised, court directed the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider the PIL as a representation and decide the same expeditiously.

The petition highlights the possible reasons of the crashes of two ‘Boeing 737 Max 8’ airplanes leading to the death of almost 300 people, where 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 airplane from the aircraft manufacturer of purchasable ‘optional safety features’.

The petition points out, “an alarming practice in the commercial airliner industry, which is virtually unregulated by the government, of providing for paid ‘optional safety features’ in commercial airliners, by the aircraft manufacturers. These optional safety features are a source of lucrative revenue for airline manufacturers while putting a premium on the safety of airline passengers, who remain unaware of these practices.”

Low cost budget airlines don’t have any incentive to buy these optional safety features as they cost  in several thousand dollars and the airlines opt not to. An airline passenger has no idea whether those optional safety features are installed in the plane they are flying in. They are kept completely in the dark on their safety.

The petitioner alleges that the DGCA, airlines and the manufacturers have failed to take precautions to provide and make mandatory ‘optional safety features’ putting the life of air travellers in serious danger.

Mr. N Hariharan, Senior advocate, 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 aircrafts in India have them installed or not.

It was further contended that the DGCA and 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. It was further submitted that safety features need to be mandatory otherwise such incidents could repeat in the future.

It was also submitted that the practice of optional safety features are a closely guarded secret and there is no information with the public on an issue that would directly affect their safety.

After hearing the submissions of Mr. N Hariharan, the court, considering the gravity and ramifications of the issue raised, directed the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to consider the PIL as a representation and decide the same expeditiously. The court also directed them to give a personal hearing to the petitioner, in this regard.

— India Legal Bureau

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