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Not taking breath analyser test does not mean AI pilot Arvind Kathpalia was drunk: HC

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Delhi High Court on Thursday said Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia's laxity in taking a breath analyser test would not lead to the assumption that he was under the influence of alcohol when he operated a flight between New Delhi and Bengaluru in January 2017.
Kathpalia has been accused of violating aircraft rules, including evading breath analyser test, and forgery in 2017. Subsequently, he was suspended last year by Air India for three years after he tested positive for blood alcohol during a routine pre-flight breath analyser test before flying an aircraft to the US.
The court on Thursday reserved its judgement on the pilot's plea seeking anticipatory bail as he apprehends arrest in the case lodged against him on the direction of a lower court in which he has been accused of tampering with evidence, criminal conspiracy and intimidating a doctor working with the airline in January 2017.
During the day's hearing, Justice Mukta Gupta, said, "Merely not taking the test would not lead to the assumption that he was under the influence of alcohol. It only shows dereliction of the rules."

The court, however, did not agree with the pilot's contention that he was in a hurry to take the flight and due to shortage of time, he could not take the pre-flight breath analyser test.
"You were getting late, but the flight was also late due to some other reasons. Therefore, you did have time to take the test," it said.
On the other hand, an association representing commercial pilots, which has intervened in the matter, told the court that under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) if a pilot does not take the test it is deemed that his blood alcohol level is positive.
The association said that Kathpalia's plea for bail be rejected considering the seriousness of the offence, his propensity to commit it again, the number of persons who could be affected and as he allegedly tried to destroy evidence which showed he had not taken the test.
The police, on its part, told the court that Kathpalia had enough time to take the test but he did not and after returning from Bengaluru he modified the test records, so forgery of documents was done.
After hearing all the sides, the court reserved its judgement on the pilot's plea.
Kathpalia had earlier submitted before the court that it cannot be presumed that just because he missed the breath analyser test, he was intoxicated. He had claimed he could not take the test as he was at work the whole day and was getting late for the flight.
He maintained that he voluntarily went for the post-flight breath analyser test after returning from Bengaluru, in good faith, but the doctor on duty refused to administer the test and only asked him to sign on a register.
According to the police, Kathpalia operated a flight from New Delhi to Bengaluru without undergoing the mandatory pre-flight breath analyser test on January 19, 2017. Further, even at Bengaluru he refused to undergo a similar test.
Later, on his arrival in New Delhi, he allegedly went to Pre-Flight Medical Examination Room and made a false entry in the Pre-Flight Breath Analyzer Examination Register for the flight he had operated.
Police had alleged that Kathpalia has also issued threats and intimidated Nitin Seth, doctor on duty, with a view to coerce him to retract his statement given in inquiry conducted by aviation regulator DGCA, where he had alleged that the Captain had manipulated the record in the register.
It was also alleged that there was violation of aircraft rules apart from tampering of evidence, coercive intimidation.
The high court had by an interim order protected him from any coercive steps while the matter was pending before it. The interim protection was extended by it from time to time.

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First Published: Mar 28 2019 | 8:15 PM IST

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