The Delhi High Court on Monday asked Air India to consider paying at least one month's salary to its pilots who were engaged on a contractual basis. Air India suspended their services in April and terminated them in August. The HC said that the employees cannot be left to hang high and dry. Justice Navin Chawla asked the counsel for the national carrier to take instructions on paying one month's salary to around 61 contractual pilots, who have not been paid for the last few months. The services of these pilots were terminated in August.
The court also asked the airline to hear out the grievances of the pilots, who were engaged on contract after they superannuated, and to see whether something, like a "golden handshake", can be done for them. With the suggestions, the court listed the matter for hearing on December 16.
The court was hearing two pleas moved on behalf of the terminated contractual pilots who have sought quashing of the April 2 order suspending their services and the subsequent order of August 7 by which they were all terminated.
The pilots, represented by advocates Lalit Bhardwaj, Krishan Gopal and Jatin Anand Dwivedi, have sought a direction to Air India to restore their contractual engagements or pay them salaries along with flying allowances with effect from April 1 till their licenses are restored to current ratings.
Air India, defending its decision, told the court that after lockdown 90% of its regular pilots are sitting at home as most of its fleet has been grounded and added that it was suffering huge losses of Rs 1,300 crore in each month.
It also said that contractual obligations cannot be sought to be enforced by way of a writ petition and a civil suit has to be filed. The court, during the hearing, asked the airline why it did not terminate the pilots in April itself if it could not afford to employ any more pilots after the lockdown.
The airline said it was not sure how long the flying operations would be affected and therefore, had not terminated their services. The aviation sector in the country was said to be vastly affected due to the pandemic. The court said it understands the problems being faced by the airline in the prevailing extraordinary situation, "but we cannot also let the employees be left to hang high and dry".
"Give them at least one month's salary," the HC added.
(With IANS inputs)