Supreme Court’s Verdict: Air India Employee Writ Petitions Dismissed

In a groundbreaking decision in RS Madireddy and Anr vs Union of India and ors., the Supreme Court threw out writ petitions filed by Air India employees seeking resolution on salary and promotion disputes. Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta underscored that with Air India’s shift from government to private ownership, these petitions no longer hold legal ground. The Court, echoing a 2022 ruling by the Bombay High Court, saw no reason to diverge from this stance, ultimately dismissing the appeals.

Here’s what happened:

  • The Supreme Court’s verdict stemmed from an appeal against a September 2022 Bombay High Court ruling, which similarly deemed writ petitions by Air India employees regarding salary and promotion matters as untenable post-privatization.
  • In January of the previous year, the Supreme Court had solicited responses from both the Central government and Air India Limited concerning this issue.
  • The Bombay High Court determined that while the petitions were initially admissible, Air India’s privatisation subsequently placed them beyond the court’s jurisdiction to issue writs, orders, or directives to the company.
  • Retired employees had filed pleas before the High Court, alleging violations of constitutional articles due to pay stagnation and lack of promotions.
  • The central question revolved around whether events significantly impacting the court’s jurisdiction rendered the petitions non-maintainable, regardless of their status at the time of filing.
  • The High Court emphasized that the issue of writ petition maintainability following a company’s privatisation was no longer open to debate.
  • In its disposal of the petitions, the High Court clarified that the time during which the case was pending would not contribute to the limitation period if the petitioners pursued alternative legal remedies.
  • Subsequently, the employees initiated an appeal before the Supreme Court to contest the High Court’s decision.
  • The Supreme Court’s January ruling sought to examine whether the petitions remained maintainable in light of Air India’s transition to private ownership.
  • Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court’s stance, dismissing the employees’ appeals regarding their salary and promotion grievances against Air India.

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About the Author: Payal Singh