The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought Air India's reply on a plea by several pilots challenging the national carrier's decision to terminate their services with effect from August 13.
Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to Air India and sought its stand on the fresh batch of petitions by four pilots who have challenged the airline's August 13 order. Air India had earlier terminated services of more than 40 other pilots.
The court also orally asked the national carrier to stay its hands with regard to seeking surrender of the identity cards and other documents of the four pilots till Wednesday, when an earlier batch of similar pleas by other Air India pilots are to be heard. The earlier batch of pleas have been moved by the pilots who had resigned but had later withdrawn the resignations before the six month notice period was over.
They have sought directions to Air India not to accept their resignations. Air India on August 13 issued termination letters to all those pilots who had resigned earlier but had withdrawn the same.
The fresh batch of petitions, filed through advocate Ravi Raghunath, have been moved challenging the August 13 termination letter. The court listed the latest batch of petitions for hearing on September 17
Advocate Nilansh Gaur, appearing for some of the pilots who had moved court earlier, told PTI that they too have filed modification applications challenging the August 13 order and it would be heard on Wednesday. In the pleas filed through Gaur, the pilots have contended that they initially tendered their resignations over delay by Air India in disbursing pay and allowances.
They have also contended that neither were their notice periods reduced nor any no-objection certificate issued to them after receipt of resignation. They have further contended that the resignations were subsequently withdrawn, but the withdrawal was not accepted by Air India.
Meanwhile, the national carrier has told the Delhi High Court that it has terminated the services of over 40 pilots who tendered resignations as substitutes for them were engaged.
Air India, in its reply, has said that it was already "reeling under a debt of approximately Rs 30,000 crore" and in addition to that it has outstanding liabilities to various banks, lessors, vendors and service providers to the tune of around Rs 11,000 crore.
Therefore, the delay in payment of salaries and allowances of pilots was not done with any malafide intention but was due to the airline''s "precarious financial condition", it has said in an affidavit filed in the high court. The airline further said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic its commercial functioning was greatly reduced and almost its entire fleet was grounded and since the substitute pilots were already engaged, it would have an excess of pilots if those who had resigned are also kept on board.
It has said that under the prevailing "exceptional circumstances", acceptance of the withdrawal of resignation "would be against the public interest". With regard to the pilots contention that they continued to work during the notice period, the airline has said that under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) the pilots are obligated to perform their functions during the pendency of notice period.