Thursday, July 06, 2023

Delhi HC dismisses plea against reduction in allowances of Air India pilots due to COVID-19

The Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with the Centre's decision reducing allowances of Air India pilots on account of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, saying the pilots, who were taking home lakhs of rupees in spite of the cut when many others in the country had lost their livelihood, cannot claim victimisation. A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad took judicial notice of the complete lockdown in 2020, when all aviation operations were suspended, as well as the fact that pilots across various airlines lost their jobs but Air India ensured there were no lay-offs.

Dismissing an appeal by Executive Pilots Association against a single bench order rejecting its plea assailing the reduction, the bench remarked, "The fact that a pilot even without the allowance takes home a pay package of Rs 6 to 7 lakh as compared to many other people in the country who lost their entire livelihood during the pandemic cannot raise a grouse that they have been victims of reduction in pay and allowances."

The appellant had challenged before the single judge several orders issued by the aviation ministry in 2020 directing salary cuts of employees of then the government-owned Air India.

The court observed the decision by the authorities for "proportionate reduction of the allowances across the board" was not arbitrary and it was taken to secure the livelihood of its employees during "an unprecedented situation".

"The lockdown measures have equally impacted the employees and the employers. All industries or establishments are of a different nature and financial capacity and while some may bear the financial burden of payment of wages etc., the others may not be able to do so equally. A balance has to be struck between two competitive claims as survival of the company was of paramount importance," the court said in its order passed on July 3.

"This court has to take judicial notice of the fact that many pilots across various airlines have lost their jobs but Air India ensured that there are no lay offs...The cut was across the board for pilots who were flying and those who were not flying in the Vande Bharat Mission," it added.

05/07/2023 PTI/Economic Times

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