Air India pilots' stir not contempt of court, rules SC

The Supreme Court today threw out Air India's plea for initiating contempt of court proceedings against pilots of the now de-recognised Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), who have been agitating since Monday by taking 'sick leave' en masse.

The Delhi High Court has already ruled that the unofficial strike by pilots of the national carrier is illegal.

However, the AI management in its arguments did not particularly refer to the high court judgement. Instead it pointed to the fact that the Supreme Court itself had upheld the training of pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines on the Boeing 257 Dreamliner; and the IPG pilots were defying its order by refusing to fly.

The IPG represents pilots who were with AI before domestic arm Indian Airlines was merged into it in 2007. They are angry at the management's decision to send a batch of pilots from IA for Dreamliner training, saying in effect that they have a monopoly over near-bankrupt AI's latest acquisition.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said that the pilots ''have done nothing which amounts to obstruction of justice or bringing disrepute to the court'' and hence contempt proceedings are not justified.

It suggested that the AI management and pilots sort out the issue between themselves. ''Your problem is with them. You [must] sit with them and sort out the differences. Don't resort to contempt proceedings," the bench said. "Rest assured that if there is slightest contempt of court, we would ourselves initiate proceedings against them."