Delhi HC Revives Breath Analyzer Test for Air Traffic Controllers

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Lifting its earlier order of stay, the Delhi High Court had allowed a breath analyzer test through the tube process for air traffic controllers (ATCs) in the case of Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (India) vs UOI.

Brief Facts

The Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (India) had filed a petition. It had sought the suspension of the Breath Analyzer Test to prevent any exposure to COVID-19. The Court considered a modified application moved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). In March, the Court had suspended the Breath Analyser Test through the tube process for ATCs till further orders. While the Breath Analyser Tests are still conducted in the case of a pilot, the same is completely stopped for the ATCs. Pursuant to the Court’s order, a meeting of experts and authorities took place. It concluded that the Breath Analyzer Test was the most efficient and reliable form of detecting alcohol in the breath of the person.

Other methods i.e. testing of blood and urine were neither practical nor under the provision of Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs). Medical Board suggested reviving the Breath Analyser with precautionary measures. This was to reduce the risk of COVID-19. The Report of the Medical Board recommended testing randomly in a day. Thereafter, the machine used for such random tests shall not be used for the next 12 hours, post conduction of one test. Besides the random test, the authorities may also test any person suspected to have consumed psychoactive substance.

Contentions

The Petitioner submitted that the Report did suggest the consideration of other methods for the conduct of the Breath Analyser Test and that a gap of at least 24 hours be kept between the single usage of a machine.

Court’s Observation

A single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla was set up. After hearing the parties, the Court remarked that they are not an expert in the medical field.

“The Medical Report dated 16.06.2020 is pursuant to the directions issued by this Court and was headed by DGMS (Air) and attended by other Air Force Medical Officers. They are certainly the experts in their field.”

Thus, in view of the fact that the authorities agreed to take precautionary measures, and even reduce the number of tests, the Court concluded that there was no reason to continue with the interim order of stay.

“In the present case, the interests of the ATCs and of the air traveler have to be balanced.”

Advocate Piyush Sanghi appeared for the Petitioner. DGCA was represented by Advocates Anjana Gosain, Himanshi, Shalini Nair.

Court’s Decision

The Court thus modified the earlier order and noted that authorities shall be bound by the recommendations of the Medical Board. It also said that the Petitioner Association shall be at liberty to give suggestions/representations to the authorities with regard to further precautionary measures.


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