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Police hasn't properly probed case against Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, says HC

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Delhi High Court Tuesday said the police has not properly investigated a criminal case involving Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, who has been accused of violating aircraft rules including evading breath analyser test and forgery.

Justice Mukta Gupta, after perusing a status report of the Delhi Police, asked it to file a detailed report after conducting proper investigation.

"Status report filed by Delhi Police. However, it does not answer relevant questions. The prosecutor seeks time to file a detailed status report after conducting proper investigation," the court said.

The court extended its interim order till March 28, asking the police not to take any coercive steps against Kathpalia, who was present at the hearing.

Kathpalia was removed as director of operations of Air India in November, 2018 after failing to clear the pre-flight alcohol test, with the government citing "serious nature of the transgression and (his) failure to course correct".

The court was hearing the anticipatory bail plea of the pilot who has been apprehending arrest in the case lodged against him on the direction of a lower court in which he is also accused of tampering with evidence, criminal conspiracy and intimidating a doctor working with the airline in January 2017.

During the hearing, the court observed that merely because the pilot did not take the pre-flight alcohol test, there cannot be a presumption that he was drunk.

The pilot had claimed 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.

On the pilot's claim that he was in a DGCA meeting from where he had come to the airport, the court noted that the police has not examined the driver of the vehicle who had dropped Kathpalia to the airport.

"You have not done anything. It is your duty to investigate these aspects and not of court," the court said.

Kathpalia had earlier submitted before the court 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.

"As per the allegations, the test reading of the pilot is alleged to have gone up from the first reading to the second reading after a gap of 20 minutes which is contrary to medical science and thus establishes his false implication," he said in the plea filed through advocates Rajiv Mohan and Abhimanyu Kampani.

The high court had earlier issued notice to the police on the plea and observed that the pilot's actions cannot be called a mistake as they put at risk the lives of many and people like him are not worth being permitted to operate flights.

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.

The counsel for Kathpalia had claimed that it was a false complaint made against him by the Indian Pilots Commercial Association and his career of over 30 years has been impacted.

The Delhi Police has opposed his anticipatory bail plea saying it was not a normal case of forgery as the consequences were grave and he also threatened the doctor on duty.

A trial court had earlier directed the police to lodge the FIR for alleged violation of aircraft rules, tampering with evidence and intimidating a doctor working with Air India in January 2017.

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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 22 2019. 17:05 IST
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