New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the police not to take any coercive steps against Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, accused of violating aircraft rules, including evading breath analyser test, and forgery. Justice Mukta Gupta asked Kathpalia, who was present in the court, to join the Delhi police probe and appear before the investigating officer on Friday morning.
Kathpalia was removed as director of operations of Air India last month 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 granted the interim relief to the pilot till the next date of hearing -- January 22. 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.
Kathpalia, who also addressed the court, said it cannot be presumed that just because he missed the breath analyser test, he was intoxicated. He claimed he could not take the test as he was at work the whole day and was getting late for the flight.
He added 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.
He also told the court that since the time of registration of FIR in August, he has never been asked by the police to join the investigation and his version has not come on record.
"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. When the court asked if there was any positive evidence to assert that Kathpalia evaded the test before piloting the flight to Bengaluru because he was intoxicated, the Delhi Police answered in negative.
"Then it is all a presumption. Prosecution should have a positive evidence (to support their conclusion)," the judge said.
The high court had on December 13 issued notice to the police on the plea and had 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 coercing 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 a violation of aircraft rules apart from tampering of evidence, coercive intimidation....