Facts of the Case
The Director-General of Civil Aviation made it mandatory to undergo breath-analyzer tests under Section 5- Air Safety, Series F Part III Issue III. The Petitioner asked for exemption from the said test due to the recent spurt of Covid-19 infections.
The DGCA on its own without any medical advice scaled down the number of tests. He suggested the use of a UV sanitiser to sterilize the breath-analyzer equipment after every use.
Arguments presented before the Court
The counsel for the Appellant submitted that the use of breath-analyzer tests would expose a large number of pilots to grave danger. The same breath-analyzer equipment is used for all the pilots and other personnel to undergo the said test.
He further submitted that the disease is communicable and the equipment is connected to the nose and mouth while testing. Thus, there is a greater chance of the spread of infection from a person who before tested positive for COVID-19.
He further submitted that last year when the infection was not as deadly as this year, only random testing was being conducted. But breath-analyzers were suspended from being administered. He further suggested the authorities consider conducting blood-alcohol tests instead of breath-analyzer tests.
The counsel for the Respondent submitted that the DGCA has taken a policy decision to change the quantum of testing. He has reduced the testing from 25% to 10% in the domestic sector and 100% to 10% in the international sector for pilots. The testing is on a random basis for others.
He further added that the testing involves no risk to the personnel. The equipment will be sanitized with UV sterilizers before every use of the breath-analyzer equipment.
Observation of the Court
The Hon’ble Court observed that the safety of both, the passengers as well as the flying crew/ personnel is important and can not be compromised. The Court further added that neither the court nor the DGCA has adequate expertise to decide on such an issue so the same should be considered by an expert Medical Committee.
The Court further added that undertakings must be given to ensure that they do not consume any alcohol 12 hours before reporting on duty. Each of the personnel must sign the undertakings without any violation.
The Court ordered the DGMS (Air) to constitute a Medical Committee to submit a report on or before 4th May 2021. The committee must also keep in mind that UV sterilizing will not neutralize the COVID-19 aerosols if emitted by a previous user of the said equipment.
The authorities must take an undertaking on no alcohol consumption 12 hours before reporting on duty along with other applicable rules and regulations.
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