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Delhi HC orders breath analyser tests for pilots, cabin crew amid COVID pandemic

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New Delhi, May 11: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed that air traffic controllers (ATCs) and five per cent of pilots and cabin crew on duty would undergo random breath analyser (BA) tests for the next three months in view of the prevailing pandemic.

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Justice Prathiba M Singh further directed the air traffic controllers, pilots and cabin crew to give an undertaking that they have not consumed any alcohol or psychotropic substance within the 12 hours prior to a flight.

It made it clear that if a pilot, cabin crew or ATC is found to have consumed such substances and had given a false undertaking, such personnel would be "off-rostered" and appropriate action would be taken against such individuals.

With regard to the procedure to be adopted for carrying out the tests, the court said it would be held in a big and open space and the doctor and medical staff conducting the test would have to undergo a Rapid Antigen Test everyday.

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The court further directed that no more than six persons would be tested in a span of one hour and prior to each test the BA machine would be sanitised by UV radiation.

It asked the aviation regulator, DGCA, to issue guidelines with regard to the testing protocol to be followed and to communicate the same to all the airlines and airports in the country.

The directions came on the separate pleas by the ATC Guild and Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) opposing the conduct of BA tests during the prevailing pandemic.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on April 27 issued an order stating therein that 10 per cent of flight crew and cabin crew members involved in domestic operations shall be subjected to random preflight BA test.

DGCA had also told the court that undertakings are required to be furnished by flight and cabin crew that they have not consumed any alcohol or psychotropic substance in the 12 hours prior to a flight.

In March last year, the high court issued an interim order suspending BA tests through the tube process for ATCs.

Subsequently, in September 2020 it had modified the interim order and allowed BA tests through the tube process on the basis of the recommendations by a medical board.

The board had recommended that one machine would be used per person and not again for the next 12 hours.

The court, while allowing the BA tests, had said that DGCA would be bound by the June 16, 2020 recommendations of the medical board.

The interim order of March 23, 2020 was modified on an application moved by DGCA.

The DGCA's application was filed in the petition by the Air Traffic Controllers' Guild seeking a direction to DGCA and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to temporarily suspend the BA tests through the tube process to prevent further spread of the virus.

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