The Delhi High Court has dismissed petitions by the Executive Pilots Association and All India Aircraft Engineers Association challenging the reduction in allowances of Air India employees.
Justice V Kameswar Rao said that no case for discrimination was made out in the case and “rather there is a justifiable ground in reducing the allowances in the manner they have done for the pilots and engineers”.
The judge stated that it was for the central government and Air India to determine what ought to be the appropriate reduction in allowances after taking into account all the relevant considerations and as long as the reduction is not palpably arbitrary, the scope of judicial review is very limited.
In its order passed on February 7, the court took into account the respondent's stand that the aviation industry was the worst-hit industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and that Air India accumulated losses of about Rs 50,000 crores while suffering a cash deficit of Rs 250 crores a month.
The court said senior advocates appearing in the matter have not disputed the power of the respondents to rationalise the allowances.
"If that be so, there can also be no dispute that situation as was existing, required the respondents to take this drastic decision. The situation justified the rationalisation measures,” the court stated in its order.
“It is for the respondents themselves to decide by taking into account relevant considerations to determine what ought to be the appropriate reduction in allowances. As long as the reduction is not palpably arbitrary, the scope of judicial review is very limited,” it added.
The court observed that reduction in allowance had no impact on the concerned employees' basic pay, HRA, and DA and other categories of employees who faced similar reductions did not approach the court.
The petitioners challenged several orders issued by the aviation ministry in 2020 directing salary cuts of its employees.
The Executive Pilots Association had contended that instead of rewarding its member pilots for their courage and role in Vande Bharat Missions, for which they were lauded by the aviation minister, their allowances and flying hours were being reduced.
Vande Bharat Missions were launched to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to COVID-19 restrictions. The allowances which were reduced are — flying allowances, executive flying allowances, special pay, wide-body allowance, domestic layover allowance, and high-altitude allowance, among others, all of which exclusively affect pilots, the petition had said.