Aviation law is the branch of law that concerns flight, air travel, and associated legal and business concerns. Some of its area of concern overlaps that of admiralty law and, in many cases, aviation law is considered a matter of international law due to the nature of air travel.
However, the business aspects of airlines and their regulation also fall under aviation law. In the international realm, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) provides general rules and mediates international concerns to an extent regarding aviation law. The ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (“MoCA”) is the nodal Ministry responsible for the formulation of policy and regulation of civil aviation in India. The MoCA oversees the planning and implementation of schemes for the growth and expansion of civil air transport, airport facilities, air trac services and carriage of passengers and goods by air. The following are the principal regulatory authorities functioning under the authority of the MoCA:
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (“DGCA”) enforces civil aviation regulations and regulates air transport services, air safety and airworthiness standards.
- The Airports Authority of India (“AAI”) creates, upgrades, maintains and manages civil aviation infrastructure both on the ground and in the airspace of India.
- The Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (“AERA”) determines the tariff for aeronautical services and Passenger Service Fees to monitor performance standards relating to quality, continuity and reliability of service.
- The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (“BCAS”) ensures that the aviation security standards follow national and international obligations/treaties on air safety, to which India is a signatory.
Based on the eld of activity concerned within the aviation sector, the applicability of regulatory laws may also differ. Some of the principal regulations are as follows:
- The Aircraft Act, 1934 (“Aircraft Act”) and the Aircraft Rules, 1937 (“Aircraft Rules”): (i) regulate the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, and the import and export of aircraft; and (ii) stipulate the parameters for determining air worthiness, maintenance of aircraft, general conditions for ying and safety, registration of aircraft and the conduct of investigations.
- The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994 (“AAI Act”): (i) establishes the AAI; and (ii) makes the AAI responsible for the development, nance, operation and maintenance of all government airports in India.
- The Civil Aviation Requirements (“CARs”): the CARs are issued by the DGCA under Rule 133A of the Aircraft Rules and provide the standards expected to be met before a licence, certicate, approval or permission is granted/accorded.
- Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 (“AERA Act”) provides for: (i) the establishment of AERA; (ii) regulates tariff and other charges for services rendered at airports; and (iii) establishes an appellate tribunal for
Top Law Firms in India for Aviation Law (Including aerospace and defence)
Kochhar & Co.
At Kochhar & Co., the aviation and defence group was strengthened in February 2021 with the arrival of Mumbai-based practice co-head Sheetal Sabnis, who joined the firm from an in-house role at Go Airlines India, and was previously a partner at Gagrats; she will oversee the group with Ajith CR in Chennai. The team continues to cater to a global client base of airlines, operators, and defence organisations in both contentious and non-contentious matters, including aircraft financing, transactional mandates, and cargo-related litigation. Nishant Menon is a key contact in the firm’s dispute resolution and regulatory practice, where ongoing instructions include acting for Air France in major disputes across India. Other core areas of work are aircraft acquisitions and leasings, regulatory support, and contractual negotiations.
Link Legal remains a market leader in the aviation space and has a proven track record of acting for a wide roster of domestic and international airlines under the leadership of practice heads Atul Sharma, Anand Srivastava, and corporate partner Milind Jha. The team handles transactional matters including aircraft financing, acquisitions, and leasing arrangements, regulatory work and litigation; recent instructions include advising GMR Hyderabad International Airport on competitive bidding and contractual negotiations for the airport’s expansion project. On the contentious side, Abhishek Sharma and Milanka Chaudhury are key contacts, handling litigation and arbitration for clients in relation to regulatory issues, aircraft maintenance contracts, and share purchase agreements.
RNClegal continues to occupy a market-leading position in the aviation space due to its strength in international aircraft leasing matters across the Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern jurisdictions. Managed by Ajay Kumar, the team handles litigation pertaining to damages and repossessions, and transactional work. Ravi Nath and principal associate Neha Singh are also core team members.
AZB & Partners
AZB & Partners’ aviation practice has particular strength in transactional mandates spanning aircraft financing, leasing, and restructurings. Managed by Anand Shah from the Mumbai office, the group also handles contractual matters for manufacturers and regulatory work. On the contentious side, the team regularly handles large insolvency proceedings for major domestic airlines, backed by the firm’s litigation department, which is headed by Rajendra Barot.
Gagrats has a reputable aviation practice which handles transactional mandates including aircraft financings, acquisitions, and cross-border sales. Overseen by seasoned practitioner Rustam Gagrat, the group counts various domestic and international airlines as key clients, and also advises on contractual agreements and equipment leasing.
J Sagar Associates
At J Sagar Associates, the civil aviation practice is singled out for its strength in litigation and has appeared in cases before the Supreme Court of India. Leading domestic carriers and international airlines engage the firm for contractual disputes, as well as for commercial and corporate finance matters. The team also handles aircraft leasings and aircraft financings. In Delhi, seasoned practitioner Poonam Verma leads the team, while joint managing partner Amit Kapur is the key contact for complex regulatory issues. Shivpriya Nanda in Haryana advises major transport clients on privatisation projects and M&A and other transactions.
Khaitan & Co.
Khaitan & Co LLP has strength in the aerospace and defence area and counts a number of major military defence companies, technology suppliers, and service providers as key clients. Under the leadership of national group head Kabir Bogra, the teams advises on high-value contractual negotiations, regulatory issues, and joint ventures. Tushaar Talwar assists clients with procurement, industrial licensing, and taxation matters. Other members of the practice include corporate contact Tanvi Kumar and litigation partner Divya Chaturvedi.
Sarin & Co.
Under the leadership of aviation specialist Nitin Sarin, boutique firm Sarin & Co. has strength in aircraft financing and leasing and is engaged by several international carriers. Housed in Chandigarh and New Delhi, the group also handles regulatory work for domestic operators and has extensive litigation experience, covering baggage and cargo claims. Other areas of activity include advising defence companies on procurement tenders.
Trilegal continues to be active in the aviation and defence space, with a track record of representing major international and national companies. Jointly managed by corporate partners Yogesh Singh and Delano Furtado, who is based in the Mumbai office, the full-service practice excels in advising aerospace sector clients on aviation joint ventures, as well as assisting with contractual issues. The team leverages its experience in disputes to advise on sensitive bribery-related investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), supported by Ashish Bhan. Complex regulatory work also features in the caseload.
At Advaita Legal, the practice under the leadership of Monali Dutta is experienced in handling complex regulatory and transactional mandates for industry regulators and private airline carriers. The team advises on development projects, contractual matters, and aircraft financings. International defence companies also retain the group for support.
Advaya Legal’s aviation practice is led by Ramesh Vaidyanathan, who is the main point of contact for domestic and international clients on all matters concerning airport developments and aviation-related transactions, owing to his prior experience as general counsel of Mumbai International Airport. The team also has extensive expertise in advising on financing agreements, cross-border aircraft registrations and deregistrations, and commercial matters.
DSK Legal’s Mumbai-based aviation practice is active in the airports sector and is singled out for its work with government bodies on large PPP/PFI matters. Under the leadership of Anjan Dasgupta, Dinesh Pardasani and Ajay Shaw, the team is advising on several greenfield projects in India, including the tender for the development of facilities at the greenfield international airport under construction in Goa. Commercial arbitrations also feature in the workload, whilst infrastructure matters are dealt with by Avinash Kumar Khard, who sits within the firm’s project finance group.
I.L.A. Pasrich & Company
I.L.A. Pasrich & Company’s aviation practice is led by seasoned practitioner Amir Singh Pasrich and is well known in the market for acting for the largest international airlines, including British Airways. The team represents clients before the courts in a wide range of matters, including criminal proceedings, competition cases, consumer disputes, and damages claims.
At Ikigai Law, the aviation practice group specialises in technology and innovation matters in the aerospace area, and handles complex regulatory issues for leading clients. Managing partner Anirudh Rastogi oversees the team, and advises on a range of matters, including commercial contracts, satellite manufacturing, and litigation involving drone technology for defence companies. Indian space-tech start-ups often consult the team on contract negotiations for satellite launches; Nehaa Chaudhari is recommended for advising tech start-ups.
Wadia Ghandy & Co
Wadia Ghandy & Co’s team has notable strength in contentious aviation matters, spanning all areas of dispute resolution, and is headed by Marylou Bilawala in Mumbai. Aircraft financings, refinancings, and regulatory work also feature in the caseload.
At ALMT Legal, the practice is jointly managed by Sameer Tapia in Mumbai and S R Arun in Bangalore, and advises both domestic and international airline carriers on high-value cargo claims, airline liability matters, and leasing disputes. In a recent example, the group acted in proceedings before the Delhi High Court concerning a dispute over an aircraft lease agreement.
BRUS CHAMBERS, Advocates & Solicitors
Suhail Farooqui leads the aviation team at BRUS CHAMBERS, Advocates & Solicitors, which handles an assortment of financing matters for international airlines. Other work includes advising on major fleet purchases, corporate matters, and aircraft leasing arrangements.
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