The body representing Indian pilots, the India Pilots’ Guild, has approached the Delhi High Court against a notice issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), instituting random drug testing on flight crews and air traffic controllers, which is effective from January 31, 2022. As such, the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to DGCA seeking a response to the matter.
According to the India Pilots’ Guild, DGCA’s Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) is arbitrary and unconstitutional. CAR governs the ‘procedure for examining the aviation personnel for consumption of psychoactive substances.'
The petition claimed that the DGCA issued the disputed CAR in an arbitrary exercise of the power conferred by Rule 133A of the Aircraft Rules 1937 by issuing it without considering the petitioner’s suggestions and feedback, thus vitiating the process of effective consultation and violating the petitioners’ fundamental rights. The CAR issued suffers from significant infirmities and is littered with arbitrariness, according to the body.
“DGCA has failed to address the issues and shortcomings of the process scientifically. The impugned CAR has been issued without application of mind and without paying heed to the global guidelines and standards,” the petition read.
It has also been asserted that if the CAR is adopted in its current form, it will cause chaos and infringe on the petitioners’ fundamental rights and those protected by the CAR. The next hearing is scheduled for March 28, 2022.
DGCA guideline for aviation personnel against consuming psychoactive substances
Aircraft operators, MROs, FTOs, and air navigation service providers are subject to the CAR standards. Random testing for psychoactive compounds such as amphetamine and amphetamine-type stimulants, cannabis (marijuana) as ‘THC,’ opiates and metabolites, cocaine, benzodiazepine, and barbiturates are required by the CAR.
According to DGCA, “All scheduled commercial aircraft operators and air navigation service providers shall carry out random drug testing for the consumption of psychoactive substances by flight crew members and air traffic controllers employed by them respectively at the facilities established by them using the services of an appropriate laboratory.”
Furthermore, the DGCA stated that these organisations must ensure testing before hiring a person, admitting a trainee pilot to an FTO, follow-up testing of confirmed cases, and testing at the earliest possible opportunity, in instances where aviation personnel refuse a drug test to a foreign regulator during a flight operation to that country. Every six months, the number of cases must be reported to the DGCA. Additionally, organisations must educate their staff about prescription medications that contain these chemicals.