Bombay high court disapproves of AI pilot strike

Air India
Mumbai, May 25: Deprecating the inconvenience being caused to people due to their agitation, the Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) to first comply with the Delhi High Court order restraining them from continuing their "illegal strike" before sorting out the issues with the management.

"You (IPG) may have problems but first comply with the Delhi High Court order. Then you can sort out your issues. You cannot harass the general public like this," a vacation bench of Justice SJ Kathawala and Justice PD Kode observed while hearing an IPG petition challenging its derecognition. IPG, the association representing pilots from the erstwhile Air India, have moved the Bombay High Court against an order passed by the Air India (AI) management derecognising the body and sealing its premises.

"The defendant no 1 (IPG), its members, agents and its office bearers are restrained from illegal strike. The pilots are also restrained from reporting sick, holding dharnas, staging demonstrations or resorting to any other modes of strike in and outside the company's offices in Delhi and other regional offices," Justice Reva Khetrapal of Delhi HC had said in her May 9 order.

The pilots, under the banner of IPG, are agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression. The Bombay High Court bench has directed AI to file its response to the petition through an affidavit within a week and directed the management to permit the petitioner to remove documents from its sealed office. According to IPG, the order dated May 7, 2012 derecognising their association was a "high-handed and draconian" measure undertaken by AI management.

In its petition, IPG has contended that after the association took objection to training given to pilots of the pre-merger Indian Airlines (IA), Air India management had, as an "unlawful measure of retribution and punishment", derecognised it. According to the petitioner, AI had neither issued any notice to them nor given them a hearing before derecognition.

"The order of derecognition is in complete breach of the basic tenets of natural justice and is unsustainable under the law," the petition states. IPG has been at loggerheads with the AI management over its decision to let erstwhile IA pilots to train on advanced Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. It had protested against the management's decision and demanded that pilots from IA not be allowed to train on the wide-bodied aircraft until a comprehensive career progression policy was put in place.

A total of 101 pilots owing allegiance to IPG have been sacked by the national carrier for going on "an illegal strike" by reporting sick. The strike is estimated to have caused a loss of over Rs 250 crore to the cash-strapped airline in the last 18 days and forced it to curtail its international operations.


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