Monday, April 21, 2014

Delhi high court stays decision to ground 10 pilots

10 pilots and six cabin crew of GMR aviation who were grounded for skipping mandatory breath analyzer tests, the Delhi high court on Monday stayed the government's decision.

Justice Manmohan stayed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) order against the pilots and cabin crew who were employed by political leaders during election campaigning.

"Problem is that you (DGCA) presume them to be drunk. How can you deem them to be drunk (without a test)?" the court wondered while staying the decision.

HC however, refused to stay the show-cause notice issued by DGCA to the charter airline for allegedly violating the civil aviation requirement of pre-flight breath analysis of its pilots.

The court gave its nod to the ongoing probe against the pilots, cabin crew and the doctor who had conducted their pre-flight medical test. HC told additional solicitor general Rajeev Mehra and standing counsel Jatan Singh to carry on the investigations and directed the airline and its pilots/crew to cooperate with the investigation. It said the final report of DGCA will come into effect a week after it is passed by the authority.

DGCA, on the basis of a surprise inspection of the offices of GMR Aviation on April 14, had issued a show-cause notice the very next day asking why the airline's licence would not be cancelled for violation of air safety norms. It had also suspended the licenses and privileges of 10 pilots and six cabin crew of the airline for three months with the final punishment of endorsing the same on their licences.

The DGCA has claimed its inspection team found that several flights operated by GMR Aviation in the last month, including one on April 14 when its aircraft flew Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Bhubaneshwar, had skipped some mandatory tests.

ASG Mehra appearing for DGCA, told HC that pre-flight breath analysis of pilots and cabin crew have not been conducted since February 22 and also rubbished GMR Aviation's claim that its breath analyser kit was non-functional. The civil aviation ministry said that the pilots and cabin crew have undertaken flight operations without undergoing breath analysis several times in the past one month, with some not having undergone the test 11 times.

The airline challenged the grounding of its staff and alleged the breath analyser was non-functional and that their pilots had undergone the pre-flight clinical tests and were certified fit to fly by a registered doctor. It also questioned DGCA's order in which it held the pilots, all retired Air Force officers, to be breath analyser positive (drunk/intoxicated) as they had not taken breath analysis test.

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