SC criticises DGCA for not regulating air fare

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was expected to act more than just a stamping office for airlines as it is authorised to regulate air fare.

After the judges perused the Aircraft Rules, a Bench of Justices DK Jain and Madan B Lokur were amused that the DGCA had been claiming that it had no role in the fixation of tariff while Section 135 (4) of the rules stipulated that airlines are supposed to submit their tariff plans to the DGCA, which can interfere and also take actions.

"It can certainly interfere with the tariffs whenever found predatory and excessive. But DGCA wants to play safe and wash its hands off the liability towards gullible passengers by saying its role is limited to safety and licensing aspects," said the bench.

The court lamented that it seemed that the DGCA was bothered only about the carriers. "DGCA is supposed to be the watchdog but it is not at all bothered about the passengers. Will they ever be refunded the extra money charged from them? Gullible passengers believe they have been made to pay a certain amount after a scrutiny by the government but that is clearly not so," it said.

The court then asked the DGCA to file a comprehensive affidavit, bringing on record all the instructions or orders that it had passed in relation to the fixation of tariff and collection of different charges from the passengers.

The court also took on record an affidavit by the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), federation of 7 scheduled domestic carriers, which had sought to be heard in the matter, emanating from an order of the AERA.

Their affidavit disclosed that the DGCA had on December 17 issued a circular prohibiting all airlines from levying transaction fee — paid by an airline to a travel agent for bookings and that the circular has "very recently" come to their knowledge. The FIA counsel also admitted that they were still charging it. The affidavit also questioned the levy of User Development Fee on passengers.

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