HC issues notice to Centre, AI on pilots plea

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today sought the stands of the Centre and the Air India on a petition by the pilots questioning the court`s authority to entertain the plea against their strike. A vacation bench of Justice Pratibha Rani issued notices to the Centre and the Air India management on the plea, which sought to set aside the May 9, 2012 ex-parte order of the single-judge bench restraining them from going on strike.

"Where is the urgency? Just file the reply on July 13, the date already fixed for the matter. Notice be issued to the Air India and the Centre for July 13," the bench said on the plea of pilots which questioned the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court in entertaining the plea against their strike.

The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), representing the pilots of original Air India, the entity prior to its merger with Indian Airlines, had approached the court seeking to set aside and vacate the single judge`s May 9 order. The IPG, in its plea, sought to "set aside, vacate and discharge" the May 9, 2012 order, passed by single judge bench saying that Delhi High Court lacked jurisdiction as its office was in Mumbai.

"This court lacks jurisdiction to entertain this suit also in view that the dispute involved is squarely within the definition of industrial dispute under the provision of the Industrial Disputes Act," the petition said. On May 9, Justice Reva Khetrapal had restrained over 200 agitating Air India pilots from continuing their "illegal strike" after reporting sick and then staging demonstrations, a day after the airlines management sacked 10 pilots and derecognised their union.

Senior advocate Lalit Bhasin, who appeared for Air India, said the pilots cannot be heard as they were in "contempt". The bench also refused to give a hearing to the pilots saying there was no urgency and listed the matter for July 13. The pilots were agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression under the banner of IPG.

The pilots had then challenged the single bench order before a division bench which on May 17 had dismissed their plea saying they cannot "wilfully and flagrantly" disobey court orders. The division bench, however, had granted liberty to the IPG to move before single judge bench for modification of its previous order. The single judge bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal, in its May 9 order, had said that allowing such strike by the pilots to continue will cause irreparable loss to the company as well as huge inconvenience to the passengers.

The Air India management had earlier moved the Delhi High Court seeking an order restraining the pilots from going on strike. A section of Air India pilots owing allegiance to IPG had gone on strike from May 8 following failure of talks with the AI management. Resenting the management`s stand, over 200 pilots had joined the IPG agitation by going on sick leave in the midst of their talks to end the stalemate.