[COVID-19] Delhi High Court Suspends The Usage Of Breath Analyzer Test At The Airports To Safeguard The Interest Of The ATCs

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Breath Analyzer Tests at Airport

The present petition was filed in the High Court of Delhi to seek a temporary suspension of the Breath Analyzer Test (BAT) keeping in view the recent outbreak of COVID-19. The Petition was filed by the representative association of the Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) contending that the BAT is randomly conducted on 10% of the ATCs and the equipment which is used to conduct the BAT poses a high risk of spread of COVID-19. The Petitioner referred to the recent decision of the Kerala High Court where the order was passed by the court to restrain the use of Breath Analysers for the time being. The petitioner further submitted that there are alternate modes of administering the BAT which should be adopted instead of the use of the current equipment. However, the Respondent contended that the only recognised mode, available for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), for conducting BAT is the present equipment. Moreover, DGCA has decided to only subject 2% of ATCs to the BAT on a random basis to control the risk of spreading COVID-19. The Respondent further submitted that it is open to considering other alternatives which would ensure the safety of the ATCs.

Observations by Delhi High Court

It was observed by the Honourable Court that it is necessary to conduct the BAT to ensure that the ATCs are not under the influence of alcohol when they come to carry out their functions, however, even if there is a remote possibility that the test can lead to the spread of COVID-19 and can expose the ATCs to any danger, it shall be prevented. Moreover, taking into consideration that these BAT equipment are stored in the airports, where the risk of spread of the virus is extremely high, the use of such equipment where the ATCs are required to breathe into/out of the said equipment shall be suspended.

The High Court further observed that the DGCA shall come up with an alternate method on an urgent basis as even though the current equipment for conducting BAT cannot be used in order to protect the ATCs but ensuring the security of the passengers is equally important. The alternate equipment which should be selected by the authorities shall be less invasive and less risky to conduct BAT. The court further observed that after the order passed by Kerala High Court, the authorities should have looked into the matter and come up with a safer alternative, which surely has not been done. The High Court of Delhi looked into the letters of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) dated 18th March 2020 and 20th March 2020 which called upon the DGCA to suspend the usage of the current equipment to conduct BAT.

Interim Directions

  1. The DGMS (Air) shall convene a meeting on the 24th of March or at the earliest possible date with the DGCA, AAI and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, along with any doctors or medical specialists to come up with an alternate method to conduct BAT,
  2. The current equipment to conduct BAT shall remain suspended with immediate effect at all airports,
  3. The Petitioners and all its members shall appreciate the critical nature of their duty and shall not report to the work under the influence of alcohol,
  4. An undertaking and a self-declaration shall be obtained under the signature of each ATC who reports to work,
  5. Any violation of the undertaking and self-declaration by the petitioner or any of its member shall lead to severe consequences, which shall also include the suspension of their license,
  6. DGMS shall come up with a new protocol which shall be followed till the spread of COVID-19 abates,
  7. Until the new protocol is framed, the DGCA can conduct any other way of testing which is not invasive in nature and contains less risk of spreading of the virus, such as urine or blood test for detecting any violation of the undertaking and self-declaration. 2% of the ATCs shall be made to undergo these alternate tests until DGMS come sup with a new protocol. If urine/blood test has opted as a method of testing it shall be done by using disposable syringes and/or sterilised equipment.
  8. To implement the above directions, the AAI shall assist the DGCA by providing all the necessary facilities.

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