This Article is written by Shakshi Shreya final year student pursuing B.B.A. LL.B from Guru Gobind Singh University.


Aviation law is one of the most complex branches of law as it involves a deep interplay among various laws related to the use of land and air. The play prolongs among economic laws of different nations as well. Long back the Britishers enacted the Aircraft Act, 1934 in India to regulate the activities of the nation’s aviation industry. The Act saw various amendments with time. In the 1990s, the Indian aviation sector was liberalized, which was a deliberate need of that time. The move resulted in entry of the private airlines in the sector, to operate along with national airlines (Air India). The much-needed liberalization in this sector provided a fruitful boost to the economy as it accelerated the growth of tourism and aviation industry.   


The Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, also known as Chicago Convention, is the mother rulebook to the regulation of the International Civil Aviation. This came as a replacement to the Paris Convention of 1919. It led to the establishment of a specialized agency of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which was designated as a regulatory body to the Convention. The ICAO was duly headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on April 4, 1947. The body was functioned to:

  1. Development of universal air routes;
  2. Supervision on standards of flight examination;
  3. Creation of air transport gauges;
  4. Anticipation and prevention of unlawful impedance; and
  5. Encouragement to outskirt crossing rules for worldwide common aviation

The general principles of air laws are as follows:

  1. The Sovereignty of each States over their air space above its territory;
  2. “Registration” determines the nationality of an aircraft;
  3. Each aircraft is required to possess an airworthiness license;
  4. Crew onboard needs license;
  5. Freedom to fly overseas, in accordance with established rules; and
  6. Scheduled international air flights shall operate only with special permission or authorization of foreign states (for landing and overflight).

Article 3 of the aforesaid Convention clearly specifies that this convention shall be applicable only to civil aircraft and not to state aircraft. Thereafter, various international laws were brought into effect to ensure the security, safety, development, and orderly growth of the International Aviation community.


There are several essential international conventions playing a very significant role in the universe of civil aviation’s safety, which are as follows-

  • The Convention on Offences and Certain Others Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed (signed on September 14, 1963, also known as Tokyo Convention)

The Convention enables parties to exercise jurisdiction when the crimes are committed aboard on foreign aircraft and in foreign territories. The first action taken by the international community to combat hijacking was the Tokyo Convention, 1963. This Convention was originally designed to solve the problem of the commission of crimes onboard aircraft while in flight where for any number of reasons the criminal might escape punishment. On April 4, 2014, a Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft was organized in Montreal, Canada (named as Montreal Protocol). The Montreal Protocol was playing an essential role in acknowledging the loopholes and gaps of the Tokyo Convention due to which many serious offences had been going unpunished. The Protocol is yet to be ratified.

  • The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (signed on December 16, 1970, also known as Hague Convention)

Various resolutions were passed by the United Nations General Assembly since the period of 1969 to 1970 alone saw 118 acts of unlawful seizure of an aircraft and 14 cases of armed attacks and sabotage. This anti-hijacking Convention was a milestone both in the general development of international criminal air law and in the fight against aerial hijacking more prominently. Thereafter, there was the Protocol Supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft organized in Beijing, China for expanding the scope of the Hague Convention.

  • The Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation (signed on September 10, 2010, also known as Beijing Convention)

The Convention criminalized the usage of civil aircraft as a weapon. It also barred the use of dangerous material such as radioactive substances to attack aircraft or other targets on the ground.

  • The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (signed on September 23, 1971, also known as Montreal Convention)

The Hague and Tokyo Convention solely deals with offences committed on board flying machine undisputedly. The Montreal Convention is the one to dedicated overcome other unlawful acts against the well being of the common flight.


  • The Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Aircraft Rules, 1937

The Government of India, controls assembling, ownership, use, operation, dealing, import, and fare of common aircraft or class of aircrafts under this Act. Section 5 of the Act confers this power upon the Central Government

  • Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR)

These are issued by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) from time to time on its website. The power is conferred upon DGCA under Rule 29C and 133A of the Aircraft Rules, 1937. It describes the procedure to:

  1. meet the duties and obligations of India as a Contracting State under the convention;
  2. harmonize the requirements with the rules and regulations of other regulatory authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)(United States and European Aviation Authorities respectively) etc;
  3. implement the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry or any other committee constituted by the Central Government/ DGCA.
  • Anti-hijacking Act, 2016

The Anti-hijacking Act, 1982 was repealed to bring Anti-hijacking Act, 2016 into its place with stricter penalties. The hijacking of the Indian aircraft IC-814 in 1999 and the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, thunderstruck the world leaders to acknowledge the necessity of having strong laws to tackle hijacking crimes.  The act was the result of the Beijing Protocol, 2010, duly ratified by India.

Highlights of the new act:

  1. The definition of Hijacking was changed in the new act.
  2. A threat to hijack will also amount to hijacking.
  3. If someone gives a false alarm of hijacking or bomb in the aircraft and it leads to the death of a person due to heart attack or any other reason, that will amount to capital punishment or life imprisonment (rest of the life) for the perpetrator.
  4. Provides criminal liability for organizers of the attack.
  5. The State can refuse the extradition of an offender on the basis that the offence is political in nature.
  • The Carriage by Air Act, 1972

The act implements the provision of Warsaw Convention. It looks after the carriage by air, liability of international carriage of persons, their luggage’s or goods etc.

  • The Aircraft (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) Rules, 2003

It regulates air carriage of dangerous goods like explosives, radioactive material etc.


The aviation industry has become an enormous global leader in creating impact. It is diversely expanding and contributing in colossal to national as well as international development and growth. The 2018 report of Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), evidences the total economic impact of the global aviation industry which was 3.6 per cent of the world’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The industry’s potent nature creates $ 2.7 trillion worth global economic impact (which includes direct, indirect, induced, and tourism catalytic as well) and supports 65.5 million jobs worldwide. The data observed in several years have seen a constant and extensive application that determines the leaders of the States to invest their attention on paving a path which makes the operations of this industry tranquil.