Delhi HC refuses to entertain plea by ATCs concerning breath analyser tests
New Delhi, Jan 19 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a petition by Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Guild India against the conduct of random breath analyser (BA) tests on five per cent of the controllers on duty at the airports amid the ongoing covid pandemic.
Justice V Kameswar Rao, who said that he was not inclined to interfere with the procedure, noted that not more than six persons are to be tested in an hour, and even in big airports, five per cent of ATCs comes down to only three to four persons.
“Everyone must be tested... (It takes) one minute for the test. In six minutes (out of an hour) everyone is through. I am not inclined,” the judge said.
“I do not see any reason to entertain the writ petition,” the judge said.
Advocate Anjana Gosain, appearing for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), submitted that BA tests were being conducted in accordance with the earlier directions passed by the court and after each test, the area is thoroughly sanitised.
The judge closed the petition and clarified that the authorities shall continue to scrupulously follow the directions passed by the court earlier and any infraction will be taken seriously.
Lawyer Piyush Sanghi, appearing for the petitioner Association, contended that as per the earlier order passed the court, only two per cent of the ATCs can be allowed to take the BA test at random, and thus the aviation authority cannot increase the number to five per cent at a time when there is a surge in COVID-19 cases.
He also claimed that the BA test was being held in a closed area which is also used for airport ground staff and cabin crew.
The lawyer said that the BA test is conducted in such a manner that the person taking it leaves behind “small droplets” which is concerning in view of the COVID-19 infection. Gosain, representing DGCA, submitted that the authorities were anyway testing a very minuscule number of ATCs in terms of the earlier directions passed by the court while taking all precautions and in consultation with a medical board.
“From 2 per cent to 5 per cent or 5 per cent to 2 per cent, what will we get? It is our prerogative to test. Open area (for testing) is created wherever feasible. For safety, 5 per cent is appropriate,” the DGCA lawyer said.
She also claimed that the ground staff and cabin crew are tested in a separate room Advocate Digvijay Rai, representing Airport Authority of India, informed that in big airports like Delhi and Mumbai, 60-70 ATCs are employed who work in three shifts and therefore, not more than 3-4 persons are tested.
In smaller airports, one person is subjected to a BA test and the concerns raised by the petitioner are misplaced, he added.
On May 11 last year, the court had, on petitions by the ATC Guild and Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), allowed a limited number of ATCs, pilots, and cabin crew on duty to undergo BA tests and mandated compulsory supply of an undertaking that they have not consumed any alcohol or psychotropic substance within the 12 hours before a flight.
Concerning the procedure to be adopted for carrying out the tests, the court had 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 every day.
The court had further directed that no more than six persons would be tested in a span of one hour and before each test the BA machine would be sanitised by UV radiation.
In March 2020, the high court had 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 based on 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.