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Resignation Ends Legal Relation With Pilots, Can't Be Withdrawn Later: Air India Tells HC

Air India has challenged the June 1 order of the single judge which had also ordered that back wages would have to be paid to the reinstated pilots.

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Air India on August 26 told the Delhi High Court that once a pilot tenders their resignation, the legal relationship of an employer-employee comes to an end with it and the resignation cannot be withdrawn subsequently. The submission was made before a Bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh, which observed that Air India's stand of unilateral resignation was treading a dangerous path. The Bench was hearing Air India's appeal against a single judge order quashing the national carrier's decision to terminate the services of several pilots, both permanent and on contract, and directing their reinstatement. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Air India, said under the applicable law, there is no need for a formal acceptance of resignation by the national carrier, and that the six-month notice period post-resignation is only to avoid any hardship to the passengers.

“The moment you tender resignation, the de jure relationship ends. The jural relationship ends. Resignation is only given de facto prospective effect (after six months) so that the passengers are not left in a lurch,” he said. "Law requires me to continue de facto (as a matter of fact) as a mandate. But resignation takes effect today," the Solicitor General asserted.

Around 40 pilots had moved the high court after Air India refused to accept the withdrawal of their resignations. Mehta said his case was that the original petitioners were offered a better job, better prospect with some private airline and the question for determination here was the consequence of change of mind after tendering the resignation. A resignation is a resignation. There is no potential resignation or conditional resignation in service law, he said.

However, the Bench observed: “This a very dangerous path where Air India is treading. Suppose a pilot undertakes a flight and on the aircraft, there is a misdemeanour. He realises there may be disciplinary action and he resigns today, you will have to let him go today.”

The solicitor general said such unilateral resignations would be in cases of no-inquiry resignations. The court adjourned the hearing till August 27 and sought a two-page submission from the parties along with a chart on the details of specific instances before it.

Air India has challenged the June 1 order of the single judge which had also ordered that back wages would have to be paid to the reinstated pilots. The single judge had said the back wages, including allowances, have to be paid at par with what in-service pilots were receiving and in accordance with the government rules.


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