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"Alcohol Testing Cannot Be Completely Exempted": Delhi High Court Issues Directions For Breath Analyzer Test At Airports

Nupur Thapliyal
14 May 2021 5:43 AM GMT
Alcohol Testing Cannot Be Completely Exempted: Delhi High Court Issues  Directions For Breath Analyzer Test At Airports
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Observing that the testing for alcohol "cannot be completely exempted in as much as the same could be detrimental to passenger safety", the Delhi High Court on Thursday issued slew of directions for the administration of Breath Analyzer Test at all airports for all ATCs, pilots, cabin crews and other personnel.A single judge bench comprising of Justice Pratibha M Singh issued the...

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Observing that the testing for alcohol "cannot be completely exempted in as much as the same could be detrimental to passenger safety", the Delhi High Court on Thursday issued slew of directions for the administration of Breath Analyzer Test at all airports for all ATCs, pilots, cabin crews and other personnel.

A single judge bench comprising of Justice Pratibha M Singh issued the following directions:

- All the personnel shall be bound to give an undertaking and a declaration that they have not been exposed to alcoholconsumption in the last 12 hours before duty, in terms of the DGCA's applicable regulations. The said undertakings and declarations would be compulsory for all personnel.

- After the undertakings are given, insofar as the administration of the Breath Analyser test is concerned, the doctor and any other paramedic/nursing personnel on duty, would take a Rapid Antigen Test prior to joining the duty, in the testing area, to ensure, as far as possible, that they do not have COVID-19 andthey are also not likely to transmit it, being asymptomatic.

- The DGCA shall direct that the Breath Analyser test at all airports would to the extent feasible be conducted in a much bigger and an open area, which has CCTV coverage and not in a small enclosed space, as shown in the photograph today. Thiswould ensure that the exposure of aerosoles is also reduced for the personnel, who are tested.

- The testing shall be random for all personnel i.e. ATCs, pilots, cabin crews and other personnel. However, insofar as the pilots and cabin crew are concerned, there will be a 5% cap on the number of personnel who are tested, for a period of 3 months. The same can be revised by the end of 3 months, depending upon the prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic.

- Insofar as the testing area is concerned, as submitted by ld. Counsel for DGCA, not more than 6 personnel shall be tested within the duration of one hour.

- The testing equipment shall be subjected to UVCA radiation, as per the protocols already prescribed by the DGCA, which were considered by the Committee appointed by DGMS (Air).

While issuing the aforesaid directions, the Court also went ahead to direct the DGCA that it shall issue a comprehensive guideline or order on a urgent basis containing all the requirements and the protocols to be followed for administration of Breath Analyser Test in one single document. 

"The said order shall be communicated to all the airports and the airlines, across the country to be adhered to uniformly." The Court directed.

Furthermore, emphasizing that all the airlines, including ATCs, pilots and cabin crew, would be "bound to give undertakings and declarations" in respect of not having consumed alcohol in terms of the applicable regulations, the Court stated that strict action would follow in failing to do so, including "off- rostering and suspension, in accordance with the applicable rules."

The development came while the Court was considering a clutch of petitions relating to the Breath Analyzer Test which the ATCs and commercial pilots need to undergo before joining their duty at the airports.

"The blood alcohol test has been rejected by the Committee and this court would not like to substitute its judgement over the same. There is however no doubt that testing for alcohol cannot be completely exempted in as much as the same could be detrimental to passenger safety. While maintaining a balance between the interest of the personnel as also passengers, directions would have to be issued." the Court observed while issuing the aforesaid directions.

The Court had last week asked the Director General Medical Services (Air) to submit a report as to whether the breath analyzer test can be conducted in an open area with mobile electrical connectivity so that the spread of covid 19 through suspended aerosols in confined rooms can be avoided for safety of pilots, ATCs and cabin crew of airlines.

A report was thereafter filed in view of the aforesaid direction. During the course of hearing yesterday, Advocate Anajana Gosain appearing for DGCA apprised the Court an attempt shall be made in all the airports to conduct the Breath Analyzer test in an open area as far as possible in view of the said report.

Assurance was also given that in places where testing in the open area is not possible, it shall be ensured that the room shall be sanitized after each test is undertaken.

It was also submitted that the DGCA itself is "conscious of the interest of its personnel, as also the passengers".

In view of this, the Court issued the directions and disposed of the petitions accordingly.

Click Here To Read Order

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