The Delhi High Court on Thursday lamented the circumvention of the pre-flight breathalyzer tests, which are mandatory for flight and cabin crew under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva then directed the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) to examine the interpretation and functioning of the CAR, “to ensure that there is no possibility, in the future, of anyone circumventing the mandatory requirement of the PreFlight Breath Analyzer Examination, with impunity”. DGCA has also been directed to examine the need for any amendments to the CAR, to ensure its objects are achieved.
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), seeking a direction to the DGCA to initiate an enquiry and take action against Captain Arvind Kathpalia, for deliberately avoiding the breath analyzer examination, and manipulating records pertaining to such examination at several occasions.
ICPA had also sought suspension of Captain Kathpalia until publication of a final enquiry report, and cancellation of his Airline Transport Pilot Licence during this time.
The Petitioners had cited a circular issued by the then Executive Director (Personnel) of Air India in October, 2013, stating that any pilot not complying with the procedure ‘for medical examination of aircraft personnel for alcohol consumption’ shall be promptly charge-sheeted, and a departmental enquiry will be instituted against them apart from being immediately de-rostered.
Thereafter, the DGCA had, in 2015, issued the CAR, laying down the procedure for medical examination of aircraft personnel for alcohol consumption. The CAR mandates breath analyzer examination of each flight crew and cabin crew before the flight leaves India, and after the flight reaches India. This (CAR) was reiterated by Captain Kathpalia himself, when he was the Executive Director (Flight Operations).
Examining the case at hand, the Court opined that the allegations highlight the loophole in the CAR, whereby it can easily be avoided in case of collusion between the Doctor on duty and the pilot.
The Court, however, did not find any inconsistency with regard to the punishment awarded to Captain Kathpalia. Therefore, while upholding the punishment awarded to Captain Kathpalia, it directed the Disciplinary Authority to conduct a disciplinary enquiry into manipulation of records by him. It opined that it was for both DGCA and AIR India to examine the issue and take remedial steps.
“The consequences of such an action can be drastic. Such an action cannot be lightly brushed aside completely, without the disciplinary authority applying its mind to it. The disciplinary authority is therefore liable to apply its mind and take appropriate action. The authority cannot refuse to look into such a conduct or ignore it. The stand of Air India is that DGCA has already applied its mind and taken action on the report. On the other hand, the stand of DGCA is that it is for Air India to take action. The sequitur is that neither of the two have even bothered to even look into it and take any action. Such a result cannot be countenanced,” it further observed, directing Air India to identify and take action against officers who failed to notify the DGCA of the infractions by the Captain.
Read the Judgment Here