Kozhikode airport clash: Investigation in gross violation of rules

By Jacob K Philip

One week after Kozhikode airport, Kerala, has witnessed a war like confrontation between the CISF and the airport staff, the extremely alarming incident is now being investigated in total violation of the laws of the country.

As per Indian Aircraft Act, it was the union civil aviation ministry, and not the state government to initiate actions.
And it never was the responsibility of the local police to do the investigation, collect evidence and make arrests.

The authorities in fact had no options but to go by ‘the suppression of unlawful acts against safety of civil aviation act ‘ (which forms a part of Indian Aircraft Act) and to entrust the whole investigation with an officer deputed specifically for the purpose by the Civil Aviation Ministry.

– Because what happened at Kozhikode airport between 10.30 pm and 5.30 am on the fateful night clearly were the gravest of unlawful acts against safety of civil aviation that could ever have happened at any airport in the country.
See section 3A & 4 of the Act:

3A. Offence at airport
(1) Whoever, at any airport unlawfully and intentionally, using any device, substance or weapon,
(a) Commits an act of violence which is likely to cause grievous hurt or death of any person; or
(b) Destroys or seriously damages any aircraft or facility at an airport or disrupts any service at the airport, endangering or threatening to endanger safety at that airport, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

4 . Destruction of, or damage to, air navigation facilities
(1) Whoever unlawfully and intentionally destroys or damages air navigation facilities or interferes with their operation in such a manner as is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft in flight shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

And here is how each of these unlawful acts were blatantly committed by the very agency that was entrusted with preventing the same:

3A. 1 (a): Acts of violence:

In addition to the killing of a CISF man in accidental firing, the acts of violence can be summarized like this- assaulting the airport staff, aiming loaded guns at them and chasing them across the airport.

3A. 1 (b)
Destroying facilities of airport:

Two crash fire tenders were vandalized, the doors of many rooms of the technical block were damaged, the monitor of INDRA automation system worth millions of Rupees was pulverized… the list is pretty long.

Disrupts any service at the airport:

It was not just a disruption but total stoppage of services. All the activities at the airport had come to a standstill during 10.30 PM to 5.30 in the morning.

Endangering or threatening to endanger safety at the airport:

By chasing down the people entrusted with the safe functioning of the airport and air traffic control with loaded guns and other weapons, the whole bunch of the CISF men couldn’t have managed to do this violation better. They not only made the ATC tower deserted for full 20 minutes by making the air traffic controllers flee for their lives, but they themselves had abandoned their designated posts, in the quest for revenge!

4(1)Damaging air navigation facilities:

After a chase of AAI staff in the operational area that reminded of the scenes of thriller movies, a group of CISF men had destroyed as many as 22 lights on two sides of the runway. And runway lights are crucial navigation al equipment, not to mention the monitor of INDRA automation system.

Interferes with their (air navigation system’s ) operation:

By barging into the ATC tower, which itself was a serious offence, the CISF chased away the air traffic controllers from their assigned posts(The ATC officer were hiding behind furniture in a locked store room while the Jawans searched for them with loaded guns). It was not just interference with the operation of air navigation system – It was making the whole system dead.

Now that it is established beyond a shadow of doubt that each and every clause regarding the airport /aviation safety in the act were violated, the next step is investigation and nabbing the culprits.
Now read section 5A:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, for the purposes of this Act, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, confer on any officer of the Central Government, powers of arrest, investigation and prosecution exercisable by a police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(2) All officers of police and all officers of Government are hereby required and empowered to assist the officer of the Central Government referred to in sub-section (1), in the execution of the provisions of this Act.

So, contrary to what happened and still happening at Kozhikode, the local police had no right to investigate the case or to arrest the suspects. They actually had only one role to play: assisting the officer designated by the central government in conducting the investigation and making arrests.

Now read how the trial is to be conducted:

Section 5B: Designated Courts:
(1) For the purpose of providing for speedy trial, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify a Court of Session to be a Designated Court for such area or areas as may be specified in the notification.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, a Designated Court shall, as far as practicable,hold the trial on a day-to-day basis.

Section 5C. Offences triable by Designated Courts —

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973,
(a) all offences under this Act shall be triable only by the Designated Court specified under sub-section (1) of section 5B.
(2) When trying an offence under this Act, the Designated Court may also try an offence other than an offence under this Act, with which the accused may, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, be charged at the same trial.

That means, not only the acts of violation of aviation safety rules, but all other crimes committed too during that night should be investigated only by an officer appointed by the Central Government and all the accused should be tried by the special court set-up or the purpose alone.

The investigations and arrests being done by the local police is not only in gross violations of the aircraft act, they are in utterly wrong direction too.

Because the horrific things happened at Kozhikode airport on June 10 were not a simple case of law & order; not an issue of damaging public property; not even a case of culpable homicide – but something much more serious and which is going to have far reaching consequences as far as the civil aviation scenario and internal security of the country is concerned.

(Jacob K Philip, a Doha based aviation analyst, is the honorary editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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