‘Striking AI pilots have no right to be trained’

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said the striking pilots of Air India have no right to get training on advanced Boeing 777 to be used in international flights.

Refusing to hear an Air India appeal against the single judge’s May 11 order which had stayed the training of more pilots till the implementation of Justice Dharmadhikari panel recommendations on the issue, a bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said “let them call off the strike, we will then hear the matter.”

The high court, however, refused to disturb the ongoing training of the Air India pilots.

“So long as they (Air India pilots) are on strike, the court is not inclined to hear the matter. They cannot go on strike as well as get training simultaneously,” the bench said pulling up the Air India management for seeking court’s intervention for training to the pilots who are on strike. The bench, while posting the matter for hearing in July, made it clear that if the pilots call off their strike, they can file an application for hearing the matter. “As they are on strike, they have no right to get any training. If the strike is called off they can move an application for hearing of the matter,” the court said.

The order came after Air India’s counsel Lalit Bhasin submitted to the court that the single judge was wrong in staying the training being imparted to the Air India Pilots for Boeing 777.

He also submitted that staying the training will cause huge financial loss and the advance flight will be grounded. According to Air India, 200 Commanders (chief pilots and 200 First Officer (co-pilots) need to undergo training for Boeing 777 but at present only 64 Commanders and 62 co-pilots are undergoing training. To Bhasin’s submissions, the court wanted to know whether the Air India Pilots are on strike and getting training at the same time.

The court’s May 11 verdict had come on a plea by the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots under the banner of Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) for an order to stay the ongoing training and also direct Air India to impart training to them as well along with their counterparts in Air India for the rank of Commanders for Boeing 777.

“I hereby make it clear that those pilots of Air India, who are already on training on advanced aircrafts, shall not be disturbed,” Justice Suresh Kait had said, adding, however, “… those who have already taken the training on advance aircraft shall be subject to the outcome of the instant petition.” “I am of the considered opinion that till the report submitted by Justice Dharmadhikari Committee is implemented, the imparting of training on advanced aircraft, in this manner, shall remain stayed,” the single judge had said.

Considering ICPA’s contention that if the new training system is implemented, co-pilots of Air India will be directly promoted to the post of commanders of the advanced aircraft, the court observed it will prejudice the rights of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots who will remain as commanders of basic aircraft only, thus affecting their seniority.

ICPA had moved the high court alleging it has not been dealt “at a par” with Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), an association Air India pilots. During the course of hearing, Air India counsel Lalit Bhasin had argued that the management had taken the decision to train only Air India pilots for advance aircrafts because of their different nature of job and different experience profiles. (PTI)

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