IHC questions absence of regular CAA DG

Stays criminal proceedings against a pilot whose licence has been revoked

Our Correspondent July 29, 2020
The credentials of over 160 pilots are being investigated and action would be taken against them soon. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday directed the federal government to explain why the post of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) director general had not been filled on a permanent basis for the past two years.

The court also stopped the government from initiating criminal proceedings against a pilot whose airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) was revoked by the CAA for allegedly cheating in his exams until the next date of hearing.

On a petition filed by the pilot against the cancellation of his licence, the court observed that the post of CAA DG was “one of the most important positions” and giving its additional charge to the aviation secretary or any other person “does not appear to be in consonance with the principles of good governance”.

The lawyer for the pilot informed the court that the posts of the Aviation Division secretary and CAA DG were held by the same person and he issued the order for cancellation of his client’s licence.

He argued the order was not sustainable and issued in haste and that too in violation of the principles of procedural fairness.

The counsel further contended that his client was never confronted with any material relating to the alleged use of unfair means to clear ATPL theoretical knowledge examinations. The court directed the federal Government is directed to submit written comments within 10 days.

Last week, the Lahore High Court had restrained the CAA DG from making a final decision about the cancellation of a pilot’s licence.

The PIA pilot, who was dismissed from service over dubious credentials, moved the LHC against the CAA’s move to suspend his licence.

The petitioner, Bilal Chughtai, informed the court that the CAA had suspended his ATPL pilot licence after accusing him of having somebody else appear for his written examination.

He added that the CAA issued him a notice in July informing him that his licence would be revoked if he failed to file an appeal against the decision within two weeks.

The petitioner maintained that the CAA director general had been authorised to review an appeal against his own decision which was unconstitutional and contrary to the principles of a fair trial.

He further informed the court that the CAA director general has suspended his licence without allowing him the opportunity to clarify himself.

The former pilot pleaded the court to declare the CAA’s decision an unconstitutional move and issue directions for the restoration of his licence.

He also requested that his licence be restored until the court delivered its verdict.

Earlier this month, the CAA suspended airline transport pilot licences of 48 PIA pilots and they were given two weeks to submit their response.

The federal cabinet also approved the dismissal of 28 commercial pilots whose licences were found to dubious after an inquiry.

The 17 pilots, who include first officers, were already grounded last year and the CAA director general has issued the notification after the government’s approval.

The credentials of over 160 pilots are being investigated and action would be taken against them soon.

Last month, the aviation minister told parliament that 262 pilots of the total 860 in the country had "suspicious flying licences" and would be grounded immediately.

Later, PIA announced that it will ground a third of its 434 pilots on suspicion that they held “dubious” licences and flying certificates.

Sarwar said criminal proceedings would also be initiated against pilots with the alleged fake licences as the government could not allow anyone to put the lives of its citizens at risk.

The development came as an inquiry into a PIA crash in May, in which 97 people were killed, pointed to pilots not following procedures.

The CAA DG said some discrepancies had arisen during the computerised examination of the licensing process in the forensic scrutiny, leading the authority to ground the suspected pilots and take them off from flying duties.

“The 'suspect' pilots have been asked to defend their licences in accordance with the Pakistan Civil Aviation Rules, 1994,” he added.

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