HC terms pilots strike illegal, 10 more sacked

New Delhi/Mumbai: Holding that the strike by over 200 Air India pilots was "illegal", the Delhi High Court today barred them from any protest action, as the airline management sacked 10 more pilots. As the agitation by pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) entered the second day, harried passengers complained of flight delays by over two hours with some having heated exchanges with airline staff in Delhi and Mumbai for not helping them.

Six international flights were cancelled today. These were from Mumbai-Newark and those from Delhi to Singapore, New York (JFK), Chicago and Toronto. The government, which has been talking tough, said it was ready to talk to the protesting pilots but only after they resumed duty. The cancellation of flights has been causing Air India a huge financial loss of over Rs 10 crore per day.

Justice Reva Khetrapal of Delhi High Court said in her order: "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."

She also said allowing such strike to continue will cause irreparable loss to the company as well as huge inconvenience to the passengers travelling by the national carrier. Trying to reason out, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told the pilots, "if you have grievances, we can talk, but discussions and disruptions cannot take place simultaneously. They should withdraw their strike and apologise to the passengers."

He said the government has "a back-up plan (to deal with strike)…We can downsize…If employees are not interested that Air India should expand, then government is not going to provide money to it."