Delhi HC issues contempt notices to striking AI pilots, IPG

Air India
New Delhi, May 23: The Delhi High Court today issued contempt notices to 67 striking Air India pilots and their representative body, Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), for disobeying its earlier order by which their stir was termed illegal.

"Issue notices on this application (of Air India management) to the non-applicant (respondents 1 to 68). Notice shall indicate that the non-applicants (pilots) shall file their replies to it. List the matter on July 13," Justice Reva Khetrapal said.

The court's order came on a fresh application by Air India management seeking initiation of civil contempt proceedings against the striking pilots for their "flagrant violation" of an earlier order which did not only term the strike as illegal, but had asked them to resume work.

Lalit Bhasin, counsel for Air India, cited the judgment of a division bench of the high court by which the plea of IPG was dismissed and said that the pilots can be tried for civil contempt under the Civil Procedure Code, that entails a punishment of three months jail term.

Taking note of the plea, Justice Khetrapal, however, said, "In the meanwhile, I still feel that better sense will prevail on the pilots.

"Nobody is concerned with the plight of the passengers as somebody might have to see a person on a death bed... Some must have missed an important meeting or an important interview."

The counsel for Air India also told the court that "the IPG have held a press conference to categorically state that the pilots are still on strike. It manifests that they are still in defiance of the judicial order."

Earlier in the day, Air India management had filed a contempt petition in the high court against the striking pilots on the ground that they have failed to comply with the court's earlier order restraining them from undertaking the stir. 

Stepping up their attack on Air India management, the IPG leaders also accused it of major financial irregularities in leasing of planes, alleging that the airline had incurred a loss of Rs 4,324.28 crore over five years from 2005 on account of leased aircraft operations alone.

Later, reacting to the allegation, the Civil Aviation Minister told reporters, "If they make any credible complaint, we will examine it and take action."

"What they have said in the press, they haven't given to me as a complaint. Any credible complaint will be looked into," he said.

Mukadam and his IPG colleagues also claimed that 18 wide-body aircraft of Air India were grounded at Delhi airport while the airline was planning to wet-lease planes to run its long-haul international operations.

They also accused the management of "reneging" on their promises about their demands relating to Dreamliner training and career progression.

"There is a clear disconnect between what the Minister has said in Parliament that there will be no victimisation and what the management was doing by sacking 101 pilots," he said.

"Despite all out efforts to reach out to the management, they have refused to respond so far. Instead of responding to our overtures, they further terminated services of 30 more pilots, taking the total to 101," he said.

Mukadam also claimed eight pilots, who recently underwent training to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliners in Singapore, "returned and join the stir" and said out of 444 IPG members, 424 were participating in the strike.

The agitators have been reporting 'sick' and not joining duty.

Asked about the fitness test which is mandatory after 14 days of remaining sick, he said, "We have to undergo such routine medical check-ups every year. It is not that we have to compulsorily appear before the medical board on the 15th day itself. We have to do it before we join duty".


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