Bombay High Court allows Akasa Air to proceed in Mumbai with suit against pilots who resigned without notice

Justice SM Modak pronounced the order today.
Akasa Air
Akasa Air

The Bombay High Court Wednesday ruled that Akasa Air can proceed in Mumbai with its suit seeking contractual damages from 5 pilots who had abruptly exited the company.

The suit was filed against six pilots, stating that they had resigned from the company without serving the mandatory 6-month notice period. 

Out of the six pilots, one resided in Mumbai, so there was no objection raised by him about the jurisdiction for filing the suit in Mumbai.

However, the remaining five pilots did not reside in Mumbai and hence objected to the suit being conducted in Mumbai.

Therefore, the airline company moved the Court for permission under clause XII of the Bombay High Court Original Side Rules to proceed with its civil suit before the High Court against the five pilots living outside Mumbai.

Justice SM Modak allowed Akasa's plea on this aspect today.

The main suit by the airline company, filed through Trilegal, has sought compensation of ₹21 crores each from the pilots.

The plea claimed these pilots had abruptly exited the company without serving the mandatory 6-month notice period. 

It, therefore, sought an order directing the pilots to pay ₹18 lakh for breach of contract and ₹21 crore each for damages to the airline’s reputation due to flight cancellations, rescheduling and grounding.

The aircraft carrier also prayed for an interim direction to the pilots to serve out their 6-month notice period.

Senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas appearing for Akasa Air argued that the cause of action leading to the dispute was the resignation of pilots.

He contended that the resignation, which the company had received in Mumbai, was invalid as it did not comply with the requirements of an agreement clause. He added that acceptance of the resignation was at the discretion of the company.

However, Senior Advocate Darius Khambata for the pilots argued that acceptance of resignation was not required at all as the pilots were not restrained from resigning. 

He explained that the place from where the resignation is transmitted ought to be the place where the alleged 'breach in the contract' occurred. In other words, he asserted that such a place would be where the cause of action in the case arose. Since this did not happen in Mumbai, the suit could not be filed in Mumbai, he contended.

Dwarkadas, however, pointed out that the place where the agreement with the pilots was executed was still under debate, since Akasa claimed it was in Mumbai while the pilots said it was outside Mumbai.

Hence, he prayed that the Court grant Akasa leave to proceed with the suit and then decide on the jurisdiction, based on the pleadings filed in the suit.

The Court today allowed Akasa's argument as regards jurisdiction.

The matter will be heard in merits in the coming days.

Dwarkadas was briefed by Trilegal lawyers Ashish Bhan, Aayush Mitruka, Lisa Mishra, Sonal Singh, Preksha Gupta, and Abhinav Shrivastav.

Apart from Khambata, Senior Advocate Zal Andhyarujina and advocates Rohan Dakshini, Shweta Jaydev, Janaki Garde, Chandrajit Das, Feroza Bharucha, Arya Gadagkar and Shamant Satiya briefed by Rashmikant and Partners appeared for three pilots.

Advocates Amit Mishra, Mitakshara Goyal, Shivam Singhania and Nazish Alam from Svarniti Law Offices appeared for two pilots.

[Read order]

SNV Aviation Private Limited v. Capt Gareema Kumar.pdf
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