Obey court orders or lose jobs, HC tells pilots

Having failed to persuade the striking AI pilots to end their agitation, an exasperated Delhi HC Monday made it clear that it would no longer be lenient and many pilots will have to lose job if they don`t obey the court orders.

Last Updated: May 02, 2011, 23:56 PM IST

New Delhi: Having failed to persuade the striking Air India pilots to end their agitation, an exasperated Delhi High Court Monday made it clear that it would no longer be lenient and many pilots will have to lose their job if they don`t obey the court orders.
"You both lost the opportunities. We cannot guarantee what will happen in our decision. The leniency we are showing today may not be there tomorrow," said a division bench of justices B D Ahmed and Beena Birbal after the leaders of the striking pilots and the AI management failed to resolve their differences despite many rounds of talks between them at court`s prodding.
"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 with the conditions that the derecognition of their union, Indian Commercial Pilots` Association, should be revoked and its three sacked office bearers should be reinstated.
"Every moment of delay is precipitating. Iron is hot and you strike it now," the bench said while asking the pilots to end their strike forthwith.
But Air India counsel Lalit Bhasin told the court that the management is ready to consider the pilots` demand sympathetically but it cannot be forced to accept a pre-condition. This led the pilots to refuse to end their strike and the high court eventually had to adjourn the matter for yet another hearing of the issue on Tuesday.

During a hearing, the high court had at one point asked striking pilots to take a decision on resuming work, saying "this strike will not see another day."

"You call off the strike, we will press the management to consider your demand," said the bench.

But the two sides failed to resolve them despite many rounds of talks even in post-lunch session, exasperating the court.

The bench even warned the striking pilots, saying "don`t get carried away by the heat of the moment. Many pilots would lose their job because of your attitude and finally you would achieve nothing."

"You cannot play around with the court. You will have to abide by the court`s order. You cannot undermine the majesty of the court," said the court.

"You have to be conscious of what is happening around. You cannot transfer your miseries to others," it said adding "why do you drive the citizens to this state?"

"You have to respect the institutions and have to abide by the court order," said the court, often blowing hot, often cold, to impress upon the seriousness of the situation on feuding IA management and pilots but to no avail.

The high court cajoled the pilots to call off the strike immediately, saying it would pursue the management to refer the pilots` pay parity issue to Justice S C Dharmadhikari committee.

"Whatever be the argument, it is clear contempt. You first withdraw the strike," the bench told the pilots.

But the pilots refused to relent with senior counsel N K Kaul and K T S Tulsi, appearing for ICPA and its three dismissed office bearers, telling the court that they cannot trust the management as it was not ready to meet forthwith even its two basic demands --those of recognising ICPA and reinstating its three office bearers.

The three ICPA office bearers, President A S Bhinder, General Secretary Rishabh Kapoor and Regional Secretary Amitesh Ahuja, had been issued notices last Thursday by Justice Geeta Mittal seeking their explanation as to why contempt proceeding should not be launched against them for defying her order to resume work.

After initiating the contempt proceedings, Justice Mittal had referred the matter to the high court`s chief justice for its transfer to a larger bench.

Acting on a plea by Air India management, Justice Mittal had last week asked the striking pilots to resume work in public interest but after they refused to heed to the court`s directions, she had termed their act as "brazen" and in "utter defiance" of her order.

PTI