On 11th May 2021, the Delhi High Court directed the Director-General of Civil Aviation to carry out the breath analyser test on Air Traffic Controllers, pilots, cabin crew members and other staffs. Simultaneously, the court ordered that all the airline staffs must provide an undertaking and declaration that they have not consumed the alcohol within 12 hours before their duty.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh addressed these petitions filed by Air Traffic Controllers Guild and Indian Commercial Pilots Association. Three petitions were moved before the court seeking the exemption from heavy breath analyser test of airline staffs to avoid being infected by COVID-19.
Considering passenger safety, the court stated that a breath analyser test could not be fully exempted. The court further stated that not more than 5 percentage of pilots and cabin crew could be tested and all the doctors and nurses conducting the random test would take a Rapid Antigen Test to guarantee that none of the staff has been infected by the virus.
The Court also directed to conduct the test in an open and wide area under CCTV surveillance, it also said that only six staffs would be tested within the one-hour duration and for sanitising the equipment used for testing should be exposed to UVCA radiation.
The High Court sought the response from DGCA and Medical Committee constituted by DGMS on the same concerns raised by the petitioners. The DGMS disapproved the heavy testing by the breath analyser considering the current situation and the Medical Committee recommended not to conduct blood alcohol test.
The court opined that it would not like to supplant its judgement over the same and said that there should be a balanced approach while securing the interest of airline staff members as well as the passengers.
"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," HC said.
Therefore, the court directed DGCA to immediately issue instructions and guidelines stating the procedures and the protocols for the administration of the test.