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Delhi HC asks Air India whether or not they will pay a month’s wage to terminated contractual pilots.

Last year in November, the pilots sought a direction to Air India to restore their contractual engagements or pay them salaries along with flying allowances with effect from April 1, 2020, the time when they were suspended, till their licenses are restored to current ratings. Responding the same, Air India stated that after the lockdown 90 percent of its regular pilots are sitting at as most of its fleet has been grounded and added that it was suffering huge losses of Rs 1300 crore each month.  On this, the court asked the Air India to consider paying at least one-month’s salary to its pilots whose services were terminated in August 2020 as they cannot be left to hang high and dry.

In the recent petition, the pilots filed two petitions for quashing the April 2, 2020 order suspending their services and the subsequent order of August 7, 2020 by which they were all terminated. For this, the Air India claimed that the plea was not maintainable as the subject matter of the disputes are private contracts and there are no public functions involved.

Hearing both the sides, the court asked the lawyer appearing for the airline too seek instructions for payment of one month’s salary immediately, as an ad-interim arrangement, especially in view of the difficulties being faced by the petitioner during the COVID-19 pandemic. The court also stated that it is prima facie clear that the suspension, which was issued in April 2020, was nothing but termination for which one month notice was to be issued as per the contract. However, the court also stated that it was leaving open for now the question of whether the contracts were rightly terminated or not and listed the matter for hearing on March 25.

Lastly, the court directed to inform it about whether the airline can pay a month’s salary to the petitioners who have challenged the terminations of their contractual employment during the pandemic in an interim arrangement.

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