Financial Constraints Or Pandemic Not Grounds For State Agencies To Sack Employees: Delhi High Court In Air India Pilots Case

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Case: Arjun Ahluwalia V. Air India Limited

Coram: Justice Jyoti Singh

Case No: W.P.(C)-4203/2020

Court Observation: “State or its Agencies under Article 12 of the Constitution cannot claim financial constraints or impact of the Pandemic as a ground for dispensing the services of its employees, in the manner adopted in the present case. The state has a fiduciary duty to perform towards the citizens under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution and thus it becomes the bounden duty of a welfare State to secure the rights of livelihood of the citizens. In view of the above findings and circumstances, it is held that financial crunch cannot be a relevant consideration in deciding the issue of acceptance of resignations.”

“Petitioners had withdrawn the respective resignations well before the same was accepted. It is apparent that the initial letters of resignation were only prospective or potential resignations and as they indicated a future date from which the resignation was to take effect, such resignations can only be termed as inert, inoperative, and ineffective and cannot be said to have caused any jural effect. Consequently, it can be legitimately held that there was no cessation of the jural relationship of employer-employee between the Respondent and the Petitioners up to the last day of expiry of six months‟ notice period as it is an admitted case that prior to the said day, resignations were not accepted.”

“With regret, I note that in the garb and guise of accepting resignations, quite clearly Respondent has found an easy path to dispense with the services of the Petitioners, without following any procedure known to law and without having to bear the monetary consequences and liabilities thereto.”

“Those employed under the FTCs, where the initial tenure of 5 years is yet to expire would also be entitled to reinstatement till the expiry of the FTCs. For the third category of Petitioners appointed under the FTCs, but whose initial 5 years contracts expired during the pendency of the litigation cannot be reinstated and would only be entitled to consideration for the extension of the FTCs.”

“Petitioners are entitled to back wages commencing from the date of expiry of their respective notice periods of six months and up to the date of reinstatement. Since it is an admitted case between the parties that on account of Pandemic Covid-19, an order has been issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on 15.07.2020, reducing certain allowances, etc. and the Pilots in service are being paid accordingly, the Petitioners shall be paid the back wages in accordance with the order dated 15.07.2020 and/or any other Guidelines of the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in this respect and at par with their counterparts in service.”


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