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Rediff.com  » Business » SC refuses to entertain AI's plea, strike continues

SC refuses to entertain AI's plea, strike continues

Last updated on: May 11, 2012 14:37 IST

SC refuses to entertain AI's plea, strike continues

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The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain Air India's plea for initiating contempt proceedings against Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) for allegedly obstructing implementation of its order on training of pilots for Dreamliner aircraft.

A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said that they (pilots) have done nothing which amounts to contempt of court and suggested the airlines to speak with them to sort out the differences.

"They have done nothing for obstruction of justice or to bring disrepute to the court. Your problem is with them. You sit with them and sort out the differences. Don't resort to contempt proceedings," the bench said.

It further said that if the strike is illegal, then the airlines can take action against them.

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Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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"Rest assured that if there is slightest contempt of court, then we would ourselves initiate proceedings against them," the bench further said.

Air India on Thursday moved the apex court seeking initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against the office bearers of the Guild by resorting to protest action, which, it said, disrupted international flight operations of the airline and amounted to contempt of the apex court orders.

Air India had said the action of the IPG was in violation of the April 23 and May 2 orders of the apex court by which it was made clear that the training programme will be imparted in equal ratio to the pilots of pre-merger Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines.

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Photographs: Reuters

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The IPG, whose members have been reporting sick, are protesting the national carrier's move to send pilots from both Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines in equal numbers to get trained for flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is likely to be inducted later this month.

The training programme is going on from May 8 in Singapore. Air India's counsel Lalit Bhasin had said the "armtwisting" act by the IPG was coming in the way of administration of justice.

The matter reached the Supreme Court after Air India had appealed against March 13 order of the Bombay High Court which had restrained the national carrier from sending any pilot from Indian Airlines for training to fly Boeing 787.

Later, on April 23, the High Court order was stayed by the apex court which had made it clear "that the training imparted to the members of the IPG shall remain subject to the final outcome of the writ petition and shall not prejudice the rights and contentions of the writ petitioners before the High Court in any manner".

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Photographs: Reuters

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The apex court had asked the High Court to expeditiously deal with the matter and dispose it of within six months.

However, the IPG had filed an application in the apex court.

During the hearing of the application, Air India had submitted that "an equal number of pilots, as have been deputed from the erstwhile Air India, shall be deputed for training from out of the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots also with effect from May 8, 2012 on a Boeing facility".

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Photographs: Reuters

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The court had noted that "in the light of the statement the apprehension expressed by the petitioner/applicant (IPG) that only Air India pilots are being or may be deputed for such training is misplaced".

The May 2 order also recorded the statement of IPG's counsel that the statement Air India's lawyer was "indeed sufficient to allay the apprehension expressed in the application".

In an attempt to control the situation, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said if the striking Air India pilots returned to work, the government was willing to discuss all issues with them.

"It is not an issue of being stubborn...we are going to take a long-term view. If they want to talk, they should come to work, and all issues can be discussed...The High Court has declared their strike illegal," he told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Parliament House office on Air India issue.

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Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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He was asked whether it was the stubborn stand adopted by pilots and the government which was prolonging the stalemate. On his meeting the Prime Minister, Singh said he shared information with him. "Whatever we are doing (to resolve the issue) is being done as per policies by talking to everyone involved," he said.

He said as far as Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft is concerned, nothing can be done about it as the Supreme Court has said that all employees have a right to get trained on it.

"It (Dreamliner) was the original issue when they went on strike. As far as the issue of career progression is concerned, Dharmadhikari report deals with this and similar issues.

"A discussion is on in the ministry on how to implement it. We will talk to the affected people when we implement the report," he said and questioned the need for Air India pilots to go for an "illegal strike."

Singh also ruled out the possibility of imposing provisions of ESMA on striking pilots.

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Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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To a question that a sitting NCP MLA is president of Indian Pilot's Guild, he said trade unions don't go by political leadership.

Singh said aviation regulator DGCA has cautioned the airlines not to increase fares in view of the Air India strike. "They will check whether fares have been hiked due to
the strike," he said.

To a question on Kingfisher promoter Vijay Mallya writing a letter to employees threatening action and promising salaries at the same time, he said Kingfisher issue has been there for some time.

"We are involved with Air India because it is a government company, and not Kingfisher," he said.

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Photographs: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

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Singh said the government has approved a turnaround plan for the national carrier and the Cabinet has given a go ahead to infuse Rs 30,000 crore (Rs 300 billion) in the next nine years.

"To save Air India, we need cooperation of the employees as it is their company. If Air India won't survive, then there is no meaning of the issues they are raising. Unions need to understand this," he said.

He skirted a reply on whether those sacked could be taken back, saying reporters should ask this question to the Air India management.



Tags: Cabinet , SC

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