New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Friday refused to intervene in the stir by a section of Air India pilots even as Government offered to hold talks with them if they returned to work after their standoff entered the fourth day.


Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss future course of action to resolve the serious issue.

“The meeting with the Prime Minister was positive. We are ready for talks with the agitating pilots and in any case government’s policy will be followed,’ said Singh after the crucial meet.

Earlier on Friday, the Union Minister had held a meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in this regard.


Ajit Singh while appealing to the striking pilots to end their stir and seeking their cooperation ruled out imposing provisions of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on them.


Asking the Air India management to "sort out" the problems with the striking pilots, the apex court refused to entertain its plea for initiating contempt proceedings against Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) for allegedly obstructing implementation of its order on training of pilots for Dreamliner aircraft.

A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said they (pilots) have done nothing which amounts to contempt of court and suggested the airlines to speak with them to sort out the differences.

"They have done nothing for obstruction of justice or to bring disrepute to the court. Your problem is with them. You sit with them and sort out the differences. Don't resort to contempt proceedings," the bench said.

It further said that if the strike is illegal, then the airlines can take action against them.


Ajit Singh said all Unions have to rise above their "personal interests."

"If they want to talk, they should come to work, and all issues can be discussed...The High Court has declared their strike illegal.

We are willing to discuss with any union but they should call off the strike especially when it is vacation time. If Air India does not stay afloat, all their jobs will be at stake," Singh told reporters.

The IPG on its part ruled out returning to work unless the management takes back the pilots whose services have been terminated and their Union recognised. "The ball is in the management's court," IPG spokesperson Capt Tauseef Mukadam said.


Crisis-hit Air India on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against striking pilots as it stopped flight bookings for the US, Canada and Europe till May 15 and sacked nine more pilots on day three of their agitation. Air India daily operates about 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights.

Over 20 international and domestic flights were cancelled and several delayed, leaving hundreds of passengers fuming. Air India moved a petition in the Apex Court seeking initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against the office bearers of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) for allegedly obstructing implementation of its order on training of pilots for the Dreamliner aircraft.
An application in this regard alleged that the ongoing protest action by IPG, which has disrupted international flight operations of airline, amounts to contempt of the Apex Court orders.
With over 200 pilots owing allegiance to the IPG refusing to join duty, AI said it was suspending its international bookings to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Toronto, London, Paris and Frankfurt till May 15.


The airline sacked nine more pilots taking the number of pilots whose services have been terminated to 45. While 10 pilots, mostly office bearers of the IPG were dismissed on Tuesday, another 26 were shown the door on Thursday. AI management has also derecognised IPG. A defiant IPG demanded that the AI management must withdraw the sack orders and till then there was no question of pilots resuming work.


The agitating pilots sought the intervention of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve the impasse.
"It is a matter of life and death and career for the pilots. Talks were held by IPG with AI management which did not honour its commitments. The management is having a non-serious attitude towards our grievances,'" Jitendra Awhad, IPG president, told reporters.
From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while AI flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai.

Air India daily operates about 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights.

As the agitation entered the third day, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, "If they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me. They have to decide to follow the High Court order. That's the law but they are not willing to do so. What can we do."
Singh, however, reaffirmed government's readiness to hold talks with the pilots and hoped that they would abide by the High Court order which held their stir as illegal.

The Delhi High Court had on Wednesday held the strike as illegal and barred the pilots from resorting to sick leave and staging demonstrations. The pilots protesting against rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression have showed no signs of relenting..
"Three international departures from Mumbai and 8 from Delhi have been cancelled due to non-availability of pilots", an Air India official said.


Around 12 international arrivals at Delhi airport were also cancelled, according to the website of Delhi airport. Passengers were inconvenienced as airline officials were unable to accommodate them in others flights or give any concrete information on when their flights will take off.
Around 200 pilots owing allegiance to IPG had reported sick on Tuesday resulting in cancellation of several flights. The IPG has a strength of about 250 pilots while the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has over 1,200 membership out of a total of 1,600 pilots. The remaining are mostly executive pilots.
Asked whether the government planned to close down Air India, the minister said, "Closing down is not a solution. Air India has a large base in international travel."
"Now that the (Delhi High) court has also asked them to join, they should do so," he said, adding passengers must not be inconvenienced.
The IPG, whose members have been reporting sick, are protesting the national carrier's move to send pilots from both Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines in equal numbers to get trained for flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is likely to be inducted later this month.


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