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Business News/ News / India/  DGCA can act against pilots not serving notice: Delhi HC
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DGCA can act against pilots not serving notice: Delhi HC

The HC, however, did not allow any penal action against Akasa pilots as it hasn’t been sought

 Akasa had only sought clarity and regulatory action against the pilots in its case. (REUTERS)Premium
Akasa had only sought clarity and regulatory action against the pilots in its case. (REUTERS)

New Delhi/Mumbai: Akasa Air on Wednesday got partial relief from the high courts of Delhi and Mumbai in cases involving pilots leaving the airline without completing the mandatory six-month notice period.

While the Delhi high court clarified that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is not restrained from taking action against pilots in breach of employment agreements with airlines, it did not issue orders on Akasa’s pilots.

The Bombay HC ruled that the court has the jurisdiction to accept the airline’s plea in the matter.

The Delhi high court did not allow any action in the case involving Akasa’s pilots as the airline did not seek penal action against the 43 pilots who were in breach of their contracts, but sought clarity and regulatory action against the pilots. The court also noted that Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) 2017 and previous 2018 and 2019 orders of the court on upholding CAR were clear on termination of pilots, and rejects the contention made by the DGCA that it cannot act against pilots in the case of breach of agreements.

The court also disposed of the Akasa pilots’ case, but decided to hear the case on whether the DGCA has jurisdiction to interfere in the case of Akasa’s pilots resigning without serving their notice period. The matter is scheduled to be heard again in October.

Akasa Air had moved its plea seeking clarity on mandatory notice periods for pilots who have resigned. The airline implored DGCA to intervene and take action against its pilots for breaching employment agreements.

Akasa claimed it was forced to cancel numerous flights in September due to abrupt pilot resignations, and asserted that the resignations violated the terms of agreements. But DGCA opposed the airline’s plea, emphasizing that it could not interfere in contractual relationships between pilots and the airlines.

The Bombay high court, too, ruled in favour of Akasa Air, allowing the airline to proceed with its legal action against pilots, who had not served their notice periods after resigning. A Bombay HC bench led by Justice S.M. Modak said: “I am inclined to grant leave since sending resignation is through mail. Company takes a call on that point. Either company may refuse to accept resignation or may accept it conditionally or may accept it for future date."

A part of the cause of action has taken place in the jurisdiction of this court, and the Indian Contracts Act states that acceptance is complete when it comes to their knowledge, he said. “Whether the resignation is repudiation or termination or cancellation can be gone into later. For the reasons held above, I conclude that part of the cause of action has occurred in Mumbai and hence leave is granted," he said.

The high court also agreed to hear the matter to consider interim reliefs to Akasa on 4 October. The airline is seeking 21.6 crore in compensation, comprising 14.28 crore for damages to its reputation due to flight disruptions and grounding, 6.96 crore for operational profit loss and 36 lakh for pilots’ training agreements.

The recent wave of pilot resignations has proved to be a challenge for Akasa Air, which started operations only in August 2022 with 20 aircraft. The airline first sought DGCA intervention on 3 August, invoking Rule 39A(2) of Aircraft Rule (1937) following the mass resignations. It also reported the situation to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, alleging the pilots did not return their aerodrome entry permits and requesting that the pilots be placed on a “Stop-List" for violating AEP guidelines.

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Updated: 27 Sep 2023, 11:49 PM IST
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