Flying Kite in India may End you up in Jail for 2 Years or a Fine of Ten Lakh Rupees or Both
Flying kites, balloons and aircraft are the same in the eyes of India’s laws. According to an 80-year old law, Indians need the same permit to fly kite as flying the aircraft. India’s repertoire of laws that have failed to work- the terms used for describing it such as bizarre, weird, irrelevant and absurd seem infinite. These cannot be stated as “bad laws”, rather are termed “obsolete”, however, all of these are “live” that can make you to the court. With a backlog of 31 million pending cases, which would take 364 years to be cleared with a strength of 10.5 judges per million people.
The vibrant festival of Makar Sankranti, is one of the most auspicious festivals celebrated in almost all parts of the country with distinct names and rituals in different states.
Each year this festival is observed during the middle of January and marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara or Capricorn. The festival also marks the end of the month with the winter solstice and after the festival, the days start getting longer. This is one of the few festivals that is celebrated according to the solar cycles as most of the Indian festivals are celebrated according to lunar cycles.
Celebrated under various names across the nation, Makar Sankranti is best marked by flying kites. People gathering on the rooftops cover the sky with various colourful kites. From kids and adults, everybody is indulged in the beautiful ceremony of kite flying. However, did you know that this seemingly harmless act can land you in prison?
As part of the Repeal Laws Campaign, Centre for Civil Society explores obsolete and regressive laws that potentially hinder the daily life of the Indian citizens, which are making them susceptible to selective enforcement and abuse. The first part of the series containing the Aircraft Act of 1934 regulates all flying “machines” including balloons and kites. Kite flyers need to be careful as negligence while flying might lead to criminal prosecution. Moreover, there is a provision under the Aircraft Act 1934 that states negligent kite flying a criminal offence.
Under the outdated Section 11 of the Act, a person can be sentenced for a term of 2 years of imprisonment or imposed a penalty of Rs. 10 lakh if he or she flies an aircraft in a manner that would be causing “danger to any person or any property on land or water or in the air”. According to the Act of 1934, the term “aircraft” is used to mean any machines, which can “derive support in the atmosphere from the reaction of the air that includes balloons, airships, kites, gliders, and flying machines”.
A high court lawyer, AK Jain believes that as the definition of the aircraft in the Act includes a kite, then one can be jailed even for lying kite. The law is quite hilarious and none of Indians has ever been brought to book under the section of the Act, however, the law exists. The lawyer opines what makes the law more interesting, though never been used; it was amended in January 2008. Earlier the law stated the maximum term of imprisonment for a term of six months and Rs. 10,000, with its amendment, the sentence was increased to two years along with a fine of Rs 10 lakh.
Singh further added that when a man flies an aircraft in an unauthorised manner, it is certainly a grievous offence and calls for harsh punishment. The flaw in the Act is the definition of aircraft, which includes kites. Presumably, when a person harms someone while flying kites, says lawyer Singh, he or she is booked under Section 11 of the Aircraft Act. A senior police officer opinionated that it is impracticable to enforce this law in the country.
As per the existing law, a kite cannot be flown without a licence authorising its use, maintenance and manufacture and any person found violating the law is liable for a term of imprisonment as well as a hefty fine. The absurdity of the Act has further been emphasized in Section 11 wherein any person found guilty of flying an aircraft and causing damage can be jailed for a term of 2 years or a fine of ten lakh rupees or both.