The Delhi High Court on Monday, March 23, temporarily discontinued Breath Analyser Tests (BAT) through the tube process for Air Traffic Controllers (ATC). The decision was taken keeping in view the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country. A BAT is conducted to make sure that the officers are not under the influence of alcohol.

"The breath analyser test (BAT) currently being conducted shall remain suspended with immediate effect at all airports till further orders," the court said in its nine-page long order.

Breath Alcohol Test
Breath Alcohol Test

Stating that the ATCs should not be exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19, the high court told the concerned authorities to come up with an alternate method of testing that would not increase the chances of the spread of the fatal disease.

The Directorate General of Medical Services (Air), Delhi should convene a meeting of the DGCA, AAI, Ministry of Civil Aviation, including doctors or medical specialists on Tuesday or at the earliest possible convenience to put in place a new procedure for carrying out breath analyser tests, directed the bend headed by Justice Prathiba M Singh.

Hearing the plea by the Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) seeking suspension of BAT through the tube process, the HC said the equipment used for testing could become a source of further spread of COVID-19.

"While there is no doubt that breath analysing tests are essential to ensure that ATCs who come to perform their functions are not inebriated, even if there is a remote chance in the use of BAT equipment resulting in further spread of COVID-19, the same ought to be prevented," the court said.

"It could have a deleterious impact if any of the ATCs contract COVID-19 after undergoing BAT. Considering that BAT equipment is stored in airports where the incidents of the virus are extremely high, use of the said equipment which would require ATCs to breathe into or out of the said equipment is likely to expose them to the virus," it added.

Delhi HC advises DGCA to be cautious

The high court, while passing interim measures, highlighted that there was an emergent need for authorities to decide on an alternate, less invasive and less risky equipment.

"Urine/blood testing, if opted for as the method of testing, shall be done by using disposable syringes and/or sterilised equipment, in a two percent randomised sample, until the new protocol is framed so that any violation of the self-declaration or undertaking can be detected," it said. The AAI has been asked to cooperate with the DGCA in implementing the court's directions.

The novel coronavirus outbreak in the country is worsening by the day as the tally of COVID-19 patients has crossed 400.