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Delhi HC puts striking AI pilots on contempt notice
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 23
The 16th day of the impasse between the Air India management and striking erstwhile Air India pilots saw the Delhi High Court issuing contempt notices to striking pilots and their representative body Indian Pilots Guild (IPG). They were issued the notices for disobeying the court’s earlier order that termed the stir for exclusive flying rights for Boeing 787 Dreamliner “illegal”.

The derecognised IPG however maintained that their grouse went deeper than the Dreamliner issue. Accusing the airline management of financial malpractice, causing losses of Rs 4300-crore plus and wet-leasing more aircraft despite planes being on standby, the pilots also wondered why the government and the management were putting up a resistance to holding talks with the IPG and why there was reluctance to taking back the 101 sacked pilots.

“Despite all-out efforts to reach out to the management, they have refused to respond so far. Instead of responding to our overtures, they further terminated services of 30 more pilots, taking the total to 101,” IPG Joint Secretary Tauseef Mukadam said, adding that a strike last year by Air India’s second pilots’ union - Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) - ended after all the sacked pilots were taken back and de-recognition of their union was revoked.

Meanwhile, amid speculations that the impasse could be resolved before Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh takes off for his controversial US trip to take the delivery of the first Dreamliner, inferences are being drawn on India’s largest private airline Jet Airways’ decision to terminate contracts of 72 of its high-cost expatriate.

Having gained the maximum out of the Air India strike, Jet is also on an expansion trip. More aircraft means more jobs for pilots. Aviation experts, however, say that experienced pilots will always find a job, even in the current depressed economic scenario, which perhaps is the reason that IPG pilots may be in no hurry to join back despite contempt order by the Delhi High Court.

The order came on a fresh application by Air India management seeking initiation of civil contempt proceedings against the striking pilots for their "flagrant violation" of an earlier order which had not only termed the strike as illegal, but also it had asked them to resume work.

Air India counsel Lalit Bhasin cited the judgment of a division bench of the High Court by which the plea of IPG was dismissed and said the pilots can be tried for civil contempt under the Civil Procedure Code, that entails a punishment of three months jail term. He also told the court that “the IPG have held a press conference to categorically state that the pilots are still on strike. It manifests that they are still in defiance of the judicial order.”

However, Mukadam says that all they wanted is reinstatement of the 101 sacked pilots. “We don't want our core demands to be met right now. Take back the pilots and give us an assurance that these demands will be discussed.”





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