India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has presented SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) with a show-cause notice giving it three weeks to defend itself against regulatory actions following a string of safety failures.

In its notice to the low-cost carrier dated July 5, which the Ministry of Civil Aviation posted on its Twitter feed the next day, it said that SpiceJet "has failed to establish safe, efficient, and reliable air services" pointing to "a number of occasions" since April 1 where aircraft have either had to return to their point of origin or continue to their destination "with degraded safety margins."

It alleged that vendors and suppliers were not being paid on a regular basis, leading to a shortage of spare parts and "frequent invoking" of its minimum equipment list (MEL). The MEL is a document regulating which components of an aircraft can be inoperative during normal operations.

The regulator warned the airline that if it did not respond within three weeks, "the matter will proceed ex-parte."

In a separate tweet, aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that passenger safety is paramount and "even the smallest error hindering safety will be thoroughly investigated and of course corrected."

Local media have reported on a string of incidents in recent weeks, including three on July 5: a B737 flying from Delhi International to Dubai International diverted to Karachi International because of a fuel indicator malfunction; a DHC-8-Q400 windshield cracked on the way from Kandla to Mumbai International; and the weather radar on a cargo aircraft failed en route from Kolkata to Chongqing, forcing a turnback.

The three aircraft landed safely, but the events took the number of technical incidents involving SpiceJet in the last 18 days to eight, the broadcaster NDTV reported on July 6. The DGCA blamed the lapses on poor internal safety oversight at the carrier, delayed maintenance, and the company's troubled finances. An incident on May 1 involving a B737-800 in which 17 people were hurt prompted the authority to inspect the entire fleet.

"We are an IATA-IOSA certified airline. SpiceJet successfully completed a meticulous audit programme for recertification in October 2021. We have been regularly audited by DGCA. All our aircraft were audited a month ago by the regulator and found to be safe," the airline said in a tweet of its own on July 7.