The Madras High Court on Tuesday reserved orders on a plea by Air Corporation Employees Union seeking directions to the Central government to protect their rights and service conditions before the government proceeds with Air India's disinvestment and privatisation [Air Corporation Employees Union v. Union of India]..- Justice V Parthiban reserved orders in plea seeking protection of employees' rights to medical treatment, housing etc;- Petitioners did not challenge the Central government's move to disinvest; however they raised concerns regarding protection of their service conditions;- Petitioners argued lack of fairness, stated that the Court needs to interfere in the interest of thousands of employees and their families;- Respondents argued that everything possible had been done to ensure the interest of workmen is protected; - However, the larger public interest was prioritised while making the decision to disinvest, submitted Air India and the Government..The petitioners before the High Court prayed for an order forbearing the Central government, Air India and Tata Group from proceeding with disinvestment of the government’s stake in Air India without taking appropriate measures to protect the terms and conditions of service and rights of the employees of Air India. .The plea arose from the decision of the Central Government to disinvest in Air India and the agreement to this effect, entered into between the between the government and Talace Private Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons. .Senior Advocate R Vaigai representing the petitioner argued on Monday that the employees' concern was that their service conditions must be protected.It was submitted that an agreement was reached between the employees' and Air India's management by way of a bilateral committee's recommendations, which were arrived at through consultation..The Senior Counsel emphasised that the recommendations must be adhered to and complied with before the disinvestment process."Unfortunately, since February 2020 since the recommendations of the Bilateral committee- we've been continuously making representations to the Government of India and Air India," she said..The petitioners also stated that despite several representations to the management, they received no assurance."They say we cannot continue existing medical facilities which have better terms. The basic pay of most employees is below income limit in CGHS to be eligible for better admission facilities. For housing- they are discontinuing, therefore will have to be vacated," she contended..On the other hand, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Central government vehemently argued that the Union had done everything, to the extent possible, to ensure the interest of workmen was protected.However, it was clarified that the employees' interest could not trump that of taxpayers at large."We cannot forget that ultimately this exercise is being undertaken in public interest. We cannot offer them a deal that they have to refuse. At least the taxpayer money is saved.".In fact, it was the stand of the respondents that a consultative process was undertaken with inputs from twenty unions, out of which nineteen were satisfied and only one had approached the Court. It was their contention that the recommendations of the bilateral committee were not a binding agreement and thus, could not be enforced by way of a mandamus. "What we did, we followed deliberations, consulted, we called the twenty unions. Only one is here, other nineteen are satisfied. These are committee's suggestions, not an agreement where a prayer for mandamus would lie," said the Solicitor General. .Earlier in January, Justice V Parthiban had granted an interim injunction in the petitioners' favour. The case was heard expeditiously on the Central Government's request on the ground that they were incurring losses to the tune of several crores due to the delay..Live account from Day 1 of the hearing. .Live account from Day 2 of the hearing.