The Delhi High Court recently has refused to entertain a plea against Air India by the Indian Airlines Officers Association seeking pay and allowance arrears, saying that the airline had ceased to be a government-controlled company and was no longer amenable to its writ jurisdiction.

The Bench of Justice Jyoti Singh noted that on January 27, 2022, 100% shareholding of Air India were acquired by M/s. Talace Pvt. Ltd. and Air India had ceased to be a Government controlled company and observed that "It is no doubt true that when the writ petition was filed in the year 2016, it was maintainable as AIL was amenable to the writ jurisdiction being a public body. However, with the change of circumstance, this Court is precluded from issuing a writ of mandamus in the current situation."

In this case, the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India was filed seeking arrears of pay and allowances for the period January 1, 1997 to July 31, 2006 and to quash the letter dated March 19, 2014 wherein the arrears were declined by the respondent no.1.

Senior Advocate Jayant Mehta appeared for the petitioner and submitted that the petition was filed in the year 2016 and that they could not be blamed for the intervening circumstances and should not be non-suited at this stage.

Central Government Standing Counsel Arunima Dwivedi appeared for the respondent no.1.

Senior Advocate Rajiv Nayar appeared for the respondent no. 2 and argued that the writ petition was not maintainable under Article 226 of the Constitution, on the ground that due to the disinvestment process initiated by the Government of India, Air India Limited ('AIL') had ceased to be a public body or authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and therefore, no writ could lie against AIL in the circumstances that existed today.

The petitioners, expressed their concern and submitted that they had been seeking the claims related to arrears of pay and allowances for several years and if the writ petition was disposed of and the petitioners took recourse to any other remedy, Respondent No. 2 might disown its liability to pay the arrears of wages on the ground that its privatised.

To this apprehension of the petitioners, Advocate Nayar said that if the petitioners, before an Appropriate Forum, succeeded in establishing their claims, the liability to pay would rest entirely on Respondent No. 2.

The Court said that the assurance given by respondent no. 2 would be binding upon them and would be entirely responsible for clearing the dues, in case the petitioners succeeded in their claims before the appropriate forum and further granted liberty to the petitioners to take recourse to remedies available to them in law in an appropriate Forum and the time period for which the writ petition was pending would be excluded for purpose of computation of limitation.

Accordingly, the writ petition was disposed of.

Cause Title- Indian Airlines Officers Association v. Union of India & Anr.

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