New Delhi, May 10 (ILNS): The Delhi High Court will today continue hearing in the matter related to conducting the Breath Analyzer Test (BAT) in an open area with mobile electrical connectivity, so as to arrest the spread of COVID-19 through suspended particles/aerosols in a confined room can be avoided, for the safety of the cabin crew, ATCs and pilots.
On April 27, the court had asked the the Medical Committee formed by the Director General Medical Services (Air) to submit a report by May 10, on issues related to continuation of Breath Analyzer Test, to which the committee has made the following recommendations:
“Keeping in mind the safety of passengers as also the safety of the personnel including the pilots, cabin crew and air traffic controllers, complete suspension of BA Test may prove counterproductive and hence, not advisable.
“Conduct of Blood Alcohol Test is invasive and non-practical in view of the specific requirements of Civil Aviation. Further, protocols related to carriage of the samples and protecting the sanctity of samples is an issue, which makes blood tests an unreliable method,” it added.
Anjana Gosain, appearing for Director General Medical Services (Air), yesterday submitted that the document, which lays down the compliance protocol of Civil Aviation Requirements with modifications carried out by the DGCA in respect of the number of crew members, cabin crews and ATCs, said, “Ten percent of flight crew member and the cabin crew member shall be subjected to random preflight Breath-Analyzer test for the entire operation of an Organisation of India. The ATCO shall be subject to random Breath Analyzer test before commencement of duty at each station on daily basis.”
The counsel further submitted that the last order the DGCA, obtained data from various airlines, revealed that most of the airlines are conducting tests using breath analyzers, which is much higher than 10 percent and in some airlines, even close to 30 percent.
Piyush Sanghi, Counsel appearing for Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) raised an apprehension before the Court that the BAT is conducted in an enclosed space and that the air blown into the equipment is released out in open from the other end by placing reliance upon the judgement of this court in Saurabh Sharma vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate (East) and Ors and studies by various international agencies, including the WHO and LANCET that it is now established that COVID-19 spreads through aerosols and droplets, which are suspended in air.
The court had earlier directed the airlines to strictly abide by the percentage of testing, which are mentioned in the April 27 order issued by the DGCA and accept the said opinion of the Committee that the blood alcohol testing is not possible at this point.
Subsequently, the court emphasised that all staff of the Airlines, including ATCs, cabin crew and the pilots, would be bound to give the undertakings and the declarations, in respect of having not consumed alcohol in terms of the applicable regulations, failing which, they could be re-rostered and strict action would be liable to be taken against them. ILNS/HS/SS/RJ