Image Courtesy: Business Times/ST
Image Courtesy: Business Times/ST
Litigation News

Coronavirus: Delhi HC suspends Breath Analyser Test for Air Traffic Controllers till March 27

The Air Traffic Controllers shall now give an undertaking that they have not reported to work under the influence of alcohol.

Aditi Singh

In view of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Delhi High Court today suspended the Breath Analyser Test (BAT) through tube process for Air Traffic Controllers till March 27. (Air Traffic Controllers Guild vs UOI & Ors)

At present there is a medical emergency not only in india but across the world. Under such circumstances, to permit the same BAT equipment which could pose a threat to the ATCs, to continue to be used would be non-pragmatic and unwise.
Delhi High Court said.

As per the Court's direction, instead of the test, the Air Traffic Controllers shall now give an undertaking and a self-declaration under their signature, stating that that they did not report to work under the influence of alcohol.

Any violation of the undertaking and the self-declaration shall entail severe consequences, the Court has clarified.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh also directed the Directorate General of Medical Sciences (Air), Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (India), Airports Authority of India, and doctors to explore an alternative method to conduct the test.

The order was passed in a petition by Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (India) which is the single representative association of the Air Traffic Controllers in India.

In the petition filed through Prozess Advocates Legal Consultants & Solicitors, the Guild sought for a direction to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) to temporarily suspend the Breath Analyzer Test to prevent the exposure of the Coronavirus.

The Court was informed that the Breath Analyzer Test was conducted on a daily basis on 10% of the employees engaged in air traffic control service, aerodrome management, aircraft maintenance and repair, etc, to detect consumption of alcohol as a safety measure.

After the outbreak of COVID-19, representations were made by the Guild to the authorities, including the Prime Minister, for suspension of the test. However, no decision was taken.

The Guild thus moved the High Court arguing that mandatory Breath Analyser Test violated their fundamental right to life and health guaranteed under Article 21.

The petition points out that the DGCA had earlier suspended the breath analyser test during the month of February due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The AAI also issued a circular exempting employees from biometric attendance due to possible transmission of the virus.

DGCA opposed the petition on the ground that the test was a civil aviation requirement and all precautionary measures, such giving individual tubes, were being used.

After hearing the parties, the Court opined that while the BAT was necessary to ensure the safety of passengers, in the present extraordinary situation, the Air Traffic Controllers could not be subjected to further risk.

The Court thus suspended the Breath Analyser Test till further orders, while asking the authorities to hold a meeting on March 24 to explore alternative, non-invasive methods to conduct the test.

The Petitioner was represented by Advocates Piyush Sanghi and Khushbu Sahu.

DGCA was represented by Standing Counsel Anjana Gosain.

The matter will be heard next on March 27.

Read the Order:

ATC order.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news