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Court pulls up pilots’ over strike and apology


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Friday rapped Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) over its written apology for not following its direction, saying if the court accepts their apology, a wrong message will go out to the society.

A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Veena Birbal said: “We are sitting here as representatives of society, how will they (Pilots) apologise to society?”

The pilots have tendered apology for not following the court’s directions that restrained them from continuing with their strike at Air India in April.

Taking on record the submission made by the ICPA, the court said: “The amicus curiae in this case will go through the reply filed by each one of the pilots and will then advise the court.”

The bench had appointed advocate Siddharth Luthra as amicus curiae in the matter May 25.

During the course of arguments, Luthra submitted before the court that the apology should have come forth at the very first instance May 3, when the court gave the pilots multiple opportunities to discontinue their strike.

He also contended that the pilots had wilfully disobeyed the court’s orders with defiance and utter disregard for the court’s orders as well as without any concern for the consequences, which constitutes criminal contempt of court.

Counsel for Air India management Lalit Bhasin submitted before the bench that the court should take a magnanimous view and use their extraordinary powers to view this contempt of court as one instance of defiance or an aberration and not a continuing act of defiance.

He made this suggestion since both parties had entered into a settlement and started out on a new phase.

He added that the larger interests of the nation demand that a lenient view may be taken against the erring pilots, to which the division bench responded that larger interests of the nation demand there should be discipline and not anarchy.

After hearing the observations of Luthra and the suggestions of Bhasin, the court pointed out that it is not concerned with the settlement between the ICPA and the Air India management or the financial loss suffered by the national carrier, but “more concerned with the agony suffered by the people of the nation”.

Initiating arguments, senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi representing ICPA contended that there was no deliberate disobedience on the part of the pilots, which the bench questioned.

“You must have informed them about the importance of following or obeying the court’s order. Therefore, they disobeyed the orders of the court with open eyes, fully aware of the consequences,” the court told Tulsi.

“Your apology has to be tested on the scale whether it is bona-fide or malafide?” it said, adding: “We need to be sure that the pilots will never ever fool around with the court’s orders.”

The court also enquired as to what service they (the pilots) will offer to the society, to which Luthra suggested that the pilots may publicize their apology as well perform community service within their domain of work.

The court has given the pilots time till Aug 5 to tell the court what they are willing to do in order to compensate for the agony that the nation had suffered during their strike in contravention of the court’s orders.

The court May 2 had initiated suo moto criminal contempt proceedings against the pilots for violating its orders to resume their duties.