The Delhi High Court dismissed two petitions filed by India Aircraft Engineers’ Association and Air India Aircraft Engineers’ Association which alleged that Air India indiscriminately reduced employee allowances during the pandemic when the Airline was going through tough times, witnessing losses of Rs 50,000 crore and cash deficit of Rs 250 crores a month.
As per the court order, it was for the Centre and Air India to determine, by taking into account relevant considerations, what the appropriate reduction in allowance ought to be, and that the decision was not unjustified in any way; that “As long as the reduction is not palpably arbitrary, the scope of judicial review is very limited”
The order went on to say that “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 also observed that with these reductions, there was no impact on the basic pay of the employees including the house rent allowance (HRA) and dearness allowance (DA).
Since only the aircraft maintenance engineers seem to have complained to the Court, while other employees in the engineering department and even commercial pilots and the employees in the general category such as HR / finance, have not, even though they have faced “similar reductions in allowances”, the Court order stated that “The policy cannot be set to naught only at the behest of a few employees, that too in such compelling circumstances”.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, who appeared for the petitioner, had argued that the decision of reducing allowances was passed unilaterally without consultation and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.