New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to have a relook on amendments made in the Aircraft Rules which bar pilots aged 65 years and above from flying private aircraft for non-commercial purposes.

"In these circumstances, we remit the matter back to the respondents (Centre and Director General of Civil Aviation) and for proper and thorough examination of the issue and take an informed decision," a bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said.

The court's decision came on the petition of V A Joshi and other retired pilots, who had airline transport pilot licences (ATPL), of Indian Air Force challenging the amendments made in the Aircraft Rules, 1937.

The amendments in the Act barred pilots, who have attained the age of 65 years or more, from flying private aircrafts for non-commercial purposes.

Justice Sikri, writing the judgement for the bench, said though, the court will not strike down the amendment, but keep the petition at "abeyance" which could be revived later.

"... the decision (to bar old pilots) has to be based on some cogent material so that the application of mind is discernible there from. The counsel for the petitioner (pilots) also appears to be right in his submission that no empirical study is undertaken on this aspect, namely, it may not be safe to permit a pilot above the age of 65 years to fly a non- commercial aircraft.

"The matter is not examined from this angle at all. No doubt, Central government is given power to make rules regulating the grant of licence of a pilot and the privileges which the pilot shall enjoy. At the same time, it has to be based on strong reasons," it said.

Prior to the amendments, the retired pilots of IAF were permitted to fly private aircraft for non-commercial flight operations, the petition said.

The pilots have challenged the constitutional validity of the amendments, brought about in the Act on January 10 last year, saying the change has "infringed their rights to earn livelihood and remuneration and to be gainfully employed for the purpose of flying private aircraft on non-commercial flight operations".

The amendments are violating their fundamental rights as it "imposes unreasonable restrictions which serve no purpose and ex facie appear to be an act out of vindictiveness", the pilots alleged.

The pilots said they are experienced pilots holding ALTP license and have flying experience of more than 10,000 hours each.

They have been pilots for the last 35 to 40 years and most of them have retired from Indian Air Force. All of them are above 65 years of age, the petition said, adding that they were "employed with private organisation, PSUs, state governments, who had their private aircraft".

It was submitted that there cannot be a blanket ban and only stricter medical standards, provided for renewal of ATPL licences, can be followed.


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