New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday delivered a major blow to the striking Air India pilots by declaring that their strike was illegal. The High Court said that there should not be any strike or sick leaves till further hearing of the case, which has been fixed on July 13.
Admonishing Air India pilots union Indian Pilots Guild, the High Court restrained them from going on strike, report sick or any other form of obstruction. The court observed that Air India is a public utility services company and the Supreme Court through various orders has said that such a company cannot be held to ransom by using methods like strike of calling in sick.
Air India management argued before the court that inter-union rivalry between erstwhile Air India and the Indian Airlines was the reason behind the strike. According to the management there were two aircraft at the centre of the controversy - Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 777 - and who should be trained on them. The unions were not in agreement whether pilots from Air India or Indian Airlines should be trained on the two aircraft.
A decision was taken that the training on the Dreamliner would be in the ratio 1:1 and that had already begun. Aggrieved by this decision the Indian Pilots Guild moved the High Court and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association moved the Supreme Court.
On April 23 the Supreme Court said that the training in the 1:1 ratio would continue. Despite this order the Indian Pilots Guild went to strike as a pressure tactics against the training parity.
The management argued that the strike has led to hardship for thousands of passengers and in times of difficulties it is creating huge loss for the airline. The management pointed out that modus operandi adopted by the pilots was to report sick.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh talked tough after the High Court order, having already warned that the government may consider downsizing the airline if the agitation by the pilots continued.
"It was always clear that this is an illegal strike. Pilots are openly saying we will be sick. It's planned sickness. I am sure after the judgement, I am sure the management can take a tough call. I haven't seen the judgement but if what you saying about the judgement against Indian Pilots Guild. Now I am sure pilots can be fired," said Singh.