The Delhi high court on Tuesday issued contempt notices to six more office-bearers of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, taking the total number of ICPA members against whom contempt notices have been issued to nine, for allegedly disobeying its order to call off the ongoing strike in Air India, which entered the seventh day on Tuesday. The strike is still on.
Air India is also likely to implement the “no work, no pay” principle for the striking pilots, withholding their April salaries till they return to work. This, an official noted, was because the airline considers those on strike as “absconding” from duty.
Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters on Tuesday evening that the airline’s counsel had told the court that it would consider reinstatement and other demands of the pilots in two weeks, but the pilots had not accepted it. He said: “They (pilots) wanted it (acceptance of demands) then and there. The Air India management took a conciliatory attitude. I hope wisdom will prevail on the pilots.
The government is willing to settle the issue.”
Issuing the contempt notices, the high court said on Tuesday: “All the nine persons shall remain present in court on the next date of hearing — May 25 — and respond to the notices.” Similar contempt notices were issued earlier to three office-bearers. The court, which heard the matter thrice in the day, said: “These pilots are not understanding the gravity of being prosecuted for contempt of court”.
The ICPA members facing contempt action are its president A.S. Bhinder, vice-president Ramesh Gangadharan, general secretary Rishabh Kapur, assistant general secretary Rajesh Kuyeskar, treasurer Ritesh Mathankar and four executive committee members — Nitin Mahangade, Anup, Shakil and Amitesh.
The high court also pulled up the airline management as well as the ICPA for their “rigid attitude” and appointed senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist it in resolving the issue. “It seems you are also not interested in getting the strike called off,” a division bench comprising Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Veena Birbal told Lalit Bhasin, the counsel appearing for Air India. “This court does not want to be assisted by a partisan person like you. We will appoint an amicus curiae to assist us,” the division bench told Mr Bhasin, expressing disapproval of his arguments.
The airline management assured the high court that if the pilots called off their strike, the airline would reconsider its earlier decision to terminate the pilots’ services in two weeks. In a press statement, it said the high court “was also informed that all the other demands of the pilots are covered by the terms of reference of the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee”. Asian Age