HC finds nine striking pilots guilty of contempt

AI announces 'no work, no pay' as strike continues


Sweta Ranjan | May 3, 2011

The Delhi high court has issued contempt notices to nine office-bearers of Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA). In the court proceedings on Monday the court lambasted the pilots union and the Air India management for not coming to a solution amicably and causing problems for the passengers.

The ICPA has raised objections over the contempt notice to nine office-bearers on the grounds that “how can only ninemembers of ICPA be given the notice.  If there was a contempt of court then the notice should be sent to all 600 members who defied the order of court,” said an ICPA member.

Meanwhile Air India management made an announcement on Tuesday that the pilots will not be paid if they don’t work.  The management said that 'no work, no pay' principle will be implemented to counter the pilots' strike which has caused unrest and disruption in the flights.  If  'no work, no pay' policy is implemented the striking pilots salary for the month of April will not be processed.

The stalemate between the pilots body and the AI management continued even on the seventh day as both the sides refused to blink first. Whereas the pilots are expecting a consideration and assurance from the management that their issue would be sorted out within a time frame, the management also is adamant that it will not bend until unless the striking pilots resume work.

"It seems that you are also not interested in getting the strike called off," a division bench headed by Justice B D Ahmed told Lalit Bhasin, the counsel for the Air India management.

The two-judge bench also appointed senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra as amicus curae "to assist us on the legal issues".

The court has also directed the ICPA members to be present in the court on May 25.

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Section 144 imposed at airport over striking pilots

A scuffle between the striking pilots of Air India and members of the now-derecognised Air Corporation Employees Union at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on Monday has led to the imposition of section 144 at the airport. The imposition of the statute against 'unlawful assembly' delivered a crippling blow to the pilots' strike as it forbids Indian Commercial Pilots Association - the union that has called the strike - from organising agitations at the airport.

The scuffle started when a section of ACEU members gathered at the airport with banners and raising slogans demanding the striking pilots to call off their agitation and "stop slandering Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav". Following the brawl, ICPA pilots reached the Palam police station and lodged a complaint against ACEU.

IGI airport ACP Mohammad Irshad Haider issued an order against assembling ta the airport to ICPA and AECU in the brawl's aftermath.

The section 144 order prohibits the striking pilots from gathering at the airport, raising slogans andgetting in the way of the work of other airlines. Pilots found violating the order can be punished under the section 188 of the Indian penal code.

The strike venue has been shifted to City Club, Iffco Chowk in Gurgaon, ICPA sources informed Governance Now.

Meanwhile, the Delhi high court on Monday ordered the pilots to return to work. A division bench of justices B D Ahmed and Beena Birbal, while hearing a plea for initiation of contempt proceedings against the pilots who have not performed their duty for last six days, directed them to call off the strike and to recommence work.

The division bench told the pilots body that it will press the management to consider the demand of agitated pilots. "This strike will not see another day," the bench observed, while it also said that their demands would be considered.

The court has reserved its judgement on the issue till Tuesday. “Whatever be the argument, it is clear contempt. You first withdraw the strike," it told the ICPA on Monday.

The union, however, has struck a defiant note. A ICPA member told Governance Now that the pilots are ready to go to jail rather than "succumb". The union maintained that it has got no assurance from the AI management on this regard, he said.

"The management is not ready to allow the 12 terminated and 8 suspended pilots back to work if the strike is called off," he added.

The high court has asked senior ICPA office-holders to be present at Tuesday's contempt hearing. Union president A S Bhinder, general secretary Rishabh Kapoor and regional secretary Amitesh Ahuja were issued notices for the contempt of court. Justice Geeta Mittal has sought their explanation as to why the contempt proceeding should not be launched against them for defying court orders to resume work.

'We will not succumb to any pressure by striking pilots': Ravi

Air India operations continued to be disrupted for the sixth day on Monday with the striking pilots refusing to budge even as the Delhi High Court deferred till tomorrow a decision on contempt proceedings against the agitators.

According to official estimates, private carriers were flying about 15,000-16,000 of passengers of AI which has drastically slashed its domestic services by nearly 90 per cent operating only 40 of its 320 daily flights today.

"We will await the High Court's order on the contempt proceedings and abide by it. .... I have already stated that there will be no talks with the pilots till they are on strike," Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said here.

A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court heard both the pilots and the management through the day and adjourned the matter till tomorrow, castigating both sides for losing opportunities to reach a compromise.

"You agree with them (pilots) to take them back. There is something called give-and-take policy," the bench told the AI management after the pilots offered to call off the strike if derecognition of Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) was revoked and its sacked office-bearers reinstated.

At a press conference, Ravi accused the main opposition BJP for launching "a political conspiracy by trying to target the Prime Minister on each and every issue", when he was asked about BJP charges that Air India affairs were being run by the Prime Minister's Office.

He said he had briefed the Prime Minister on the situation arising out of the pilots strike and the High Court deliberations today.

The Minister said seven rounds of meetings were held between the pilots and management before the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) but the pilots remained adamant.

Therefore, "I consider this (strike) as a threat to the people and the government and we will not succumb to any pressure", he said.

Countering Ravi's statement, ICPA leaders said the CLC, in its closure report, had blamed the management for not making any effort to resolve the issues.

They quoted the CLC's closure report on the conciliation proceedings as saying that the management had shown "an insincere and superficial attitude towards reaching an amicable solution".

The pilots, who struck work from midnight last Tuesday, have been demanding pay parity with their colleagues of erstwhile Air India, better working conditions and CBI inquiry into alleged withdrawal of flights from profitable routes, aircraft purchase and other issues.

Air India has curtailed its operations schedule till May six while it has stopped domestic bookings till tomorrow.




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