HC castigates agitating pilots, issues contempt notices

HC castigates agitating pilots, issues contempt notices

HC castigates agitating pilots, issues contempt notices

Justice Geeta Mittal issued notices to President A S Bhinder, General Secretary Rishabh Kapoor and Regional Secretary Amitesh Ahuja of Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and asked them to be present before her on next date of hearing on Monday to answer the contempt charge.

The counsel for agitating pilots Sanjay Ghosh told the court that he had met them yesterday and tried to convince them to resume work "but owing to the management's attitude, they are not ready to relent."

At this, an exasperated judge remarked "there is no exception. If you do not comply, I have no choice but to pass an order, including attachment of (ICPA) property." Justice Mittal issued notices to striking pilots on an urgent plea by Air India authorities, seeking launch of contempt of court proceedings against them for not resuming work as per the yesterday's order of the court.

The ICPA said the striking pilots were in such a disturbed mental condition that forcing them to operate flights would amount to putting passengers' lives in danger.

"In such a disturbed mental state, how can we operate flights and put the passengers' lives in danger"? argued Ghosh.

Justice Mittal said "if you come down to this level, no court of the country will accept your defence. You have the right to challenge the order but you have no right to defy it."

She pointed out that the pilots were, after all, agitating only for pay parity with another section of AI pilots and it was not their case that they were being paid absolutely nothing.

The judge asked the ICPA counsel to make his client see reason and follow the court's order.

"Mr counsel, why don't you make your clients (pilots) understand?" Justice Mittal said, adding it was their constitutional obligation to discharge their duty.

"Do you know what are you jeopardising? It is your constitutional obligation. You are paid to discharge your duty," Justice Mittal told ICPA counsel.

She told the pilots that "you abide by the law, the court will ensure your requirement will be considered by the management."

"What is your defence with regard to non-compliance of yesterday's order to call off the strike?," she asked the ICPA counsel.

"You have breached the court's order. It is very serious." Justice Mittal also asked ICPA to bring with them a list naming all striking pilots.

The ICPA counsel pointed out to the court that Air India management has sealed the ICPA offices and they have no access to the relevant document, after which Justice Mittal asked the management to deseal the pilots' body offices from 10 am to 3 pm on Friday and Saturday and let the pilots get the documents.

Appearing for the AI management, advocate Lalit Bhasin told the court that the pilots were in the habit of keeping the Air India management on tenterhooks with their consistent threat of strike.

Referring to a strike notice given by the pilots after the May 2010 Managalore air crash, Bhasin said "they keep sending notices for strike, day in and day out. They are clearly liable to be hauled up for contempt of court for defying its yesterday's order to resume work."

Justice Mittal had yesterday asked the agitating pilots to call off their strike in "larger public interest" while sympathising with their demands for higher pay and better service conditions and questioning AI management's delay in considering them expeditiously.

The 800-odd pilots, who belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owe allegiance to the ICPA, have gone on strike alleging there are differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of Indian Airlines and Air India.

The ICPA claims while Air India pilots enjoy a big fixed salary component while the same is almost minuscule for the former IA pilots. They contend despite the pay package depending upon the hours they fly every day, the airlines has been curtailing the number of their flight hours by 30 to 40 per cent.