New Delhi: It's the 16th day of the Air India crisis and cracks between the airline management and the Pilots Guild getting deeper. A contempt notice was issued to Air India pilots on Wednesday. The notice said that the pilots have to reply by July 13 and if they don't join work, they'll continue in contempt till then. If their contempt is upheld after they file their reply on July 13, court will inflict punishment of three months civil imprisonment.
The Pilots' Guild is accusing the management of financial malpractice and mismanagement causing losses worth Rs 4300 crore. They say the airline's books are not in order and accused the management of wet-leasing more aircraft despite planes being on standby. They further said the government and management's resistance to talks with the striking pilots is a mystery.
The airline has filed a contempt petition against its pilots in the Delhi High Court which will be heard later on Wednesday afternoon.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had met 13 Air India unions on Monday to discuss the turnaround plan. While sources claimed that one of the requests by the unions was to reinstate the 71 sacked pilots, the management went ahead and sacked 30 more pilots.
The court's order came on a fresh application by Air India management seeking initiation of civil contempt proceedings against the striking pilots for their "flagrant violation" of an earlier order which did not only term the strike as illegal, but had asked them to resume work.
Lalit Bhasin, counsel for Air India, cited the judgment of a division bench of the high court by which the plea of IPG was dismissed and said that the pilots can be tried for civil contempt under the Civil Procedure Code, that entails a punishment of three months jail term.
Taking note of the plea, Justice Khetrapal, however, said, "In the meanwhile, I still feel that better sense will prevail on the pilots.
"Nobody is concerned with the plight of the passengers as somebody might have to see a person on a death bed... Some must have missed an important meeting or an important interview."
The counsel for Air India also told the court that "the IPG have held a press conference to categorically state that the pilots are still on strike. It manifests that they are still in defiance of the judicial order."
Earlier in the day, Air India management had filed a contempt petition in the high court against the striking pilots on the ground that they have failed to comply with the court's earlier order restraining them from undertaking the stir.