New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday put tough questions to a senior Air India pilot, whose appointment to the Board of the airline is under challenge, regarding an entry made by him in a pre-flight alcohol test register.
The court asked the pilot to explain why he had made the entries in the pre-flight alcohol test register when he had not undertaken it before or after he flew a plane to Bengaluru and back here on January 19-20 this year.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva was of the view that the senior pilot made the entry to avoid a three-month suspension, which is the punishment for not taking a pre-flight alcohol test.
Captain Arvind Kathpalia was suspended from flying for three months in February this year, the duration of which ends on May 7.
Kathpalia's lawyers vehemently denied the observation, saying it was an "error of judgement" that he made the entry in the pre-flight register, instead of doing it post-flight after returning to Delhi.
His lawyers said there was "no malafide intent" on the pilot's part and it was a case of "entrapment".
The judge did not appear to be convinced with the explanation and said "the fact that you made the entry in the register is troubling me".
The court also observed that Kathpalia was asked to take a post-flight test when he landed in Bengaluru, but he did not do so.
It also noted that the pilot had arrived at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport one hour before the flight to Bengaluru and therefore, had enough time to take the breathalyser test as the flight briefing and medical rooms were close to each other.
The court was hearing a plea by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) opposing Kathpalia's promotion to the Board of Air India Ltd.
According to the ICPA's plea, the senior pilot had flown a flight to Bengaluru from Delhi without taking the mandatory breathalyser test and then operated the return flight too without taking the test.
Thereafter, he had proceeded to "forge" the pre-flight medical register in Delhi after arriving back here, the petitioners have alleged.
In his reply to the allegations, Kathpalia has contended that he did not take the test to avoid delaying the flight. He also claimed that the doctors on duty that day had not done their duty as they should have forced him to take the test.
The promotion of Kathpalia as Director (Operations) in the Air India Board was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended him from flying for three months.
The petitioners have alleged that penal action is taken repeating such conduct, but nothing has been done in the instant case.