Kerala High Court declines to examine allegations of violation of air safety, labour laws by Indigo Airlines

The Court, however, permitted the petitioner a Portuguese citizen and former Indigo pilot, to enter India for a period of one week to clear his documentation and collect his belongings.
Indigo Airlines
Indigo Airlines

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday granted liberty to a Portuguese pilot who had alleged violation of labour laws and air safety guidelines by Indigo Airlines to approach the appropriate authorities (Capt Pedro Guilherme da Veiga Pereira e Oliveira Artilheiro v. Union of India and ors).

Single-judge Justice PV Kunhikrishnan refused to pass any order on the allegations against the airline and left open the contentions raised by the petitioner regarding the same so that he can approach the appropriate forum.

However, the Court observed that since the petitioner had his belongings in India and since his tax residency is also in India, he is unable to obtain any other employment unless he clears his documentation. Therefore, it directed the government to ensure that he is able to visit India, despite existing COVID-19 travel restrictions, for a period of one week to set his affairs in order.

"The petitioner is free to visit India for a period for one week to retrieve his belongings from his apartment in Cochin. After reserving flight tickets, the petitioner shall inform the respondent contract employer and the Foreigners Regional Registration Office about his dates of arrival and departure," the Court ordered.

While the petitioner tried to raise contentions based on a counter affidavit filed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA) on the allegations of violations of labour and air safety laws, the Court firmly declined to examine that aspect.

"This is for labour court and other authorities to decide. There is no interim prayer like this. Then you file another petition with those specific prayers in an interlocutory application. Otherwise I will dispose this," the judge orally said.

The judge also reminded the petitioner that, at the previous hearing, he had only pressed for permission to enter the country to change his tax residency so that he can avail employment elsewhere.

"That's why I requested them (the respondents) to get instructions about this aspect and now there's submissions for it from them as well," the judge remarked.

The Court asserted that it would simply leave open all other contentions open so that the petitioners can approach the appropriate authorities.

"All other contentions raised in this writ petition are left open and petitioner is free to submit appropriate representations before appropriate authorities who shall do the needful in accordance with law," the order passed by the Court stated.

The petitioner further pressed for the Court to set a time limit for the authorities to take a decision once he filed a representation before them but the Court declined to do so and remarked that the petitioner can approach the Court again after he files representations before the appropriate authorities.

"Before filing a representation, why should I direct to consider the representation?", the judge asked.

The petitioner, represented by advocate Yashwant Shenoy, submitted that he was working as a captain with Indigo Airlines but was put on leave without pay during the lockdown in 2020. Thereafter, Indigo Airlines terminated his contract just after he obtained his employment visa. As a result of this, his visa was cancelled.

According to the petitioner, he had been unable to obtain permission to enter India to take care of his affairs and therefore sought the Court's assistance in gaining permission for entry for 90 days.

Initially, he had alleged that Indigo Airlines had claimed he was employed by a contractor, CAE Simulation Technologies, which violates the provisions of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. As per the Act, contract labour cannot be used to carry out the core activity of the principal employer.

Moreover, he had alleged that the Airline, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) had all acted in violation of air safety guidelines.

He had also sought investigation as to how the DGCA issued a Foreign Air Crew Temporary Authorisation to him since the practice of employing expat pilots as contract labourers had been discontinued in the aftermath of the Mangalore Air crash of 2010.

Similarly, he had contended that the BCAS had given clearance to a captain who, according to the Airline, is not under its direct control.

The Court had accordingly issued notice to all relevant parties.

At the previous hearing, the petitioner primarily pressed for permission to enter India to collect his belongings, close his bank accounts etc, which required his physical presence.

However, at today's hearing, upon receiving instructions from the petitioner, Shenoy clarified that the allegations against the Airline, the DGCA and the BCAS are equally important saying "prayer number two three and four are equally as important"

However, at the Court's remark that there is no such interim prayer and that he had only pressed for permission to enter India at the last hearing, he conceded that the petitioner shall approach the DGCA and Labour Courts to raise those contentions.

The Court reiterated it would't take any submissions from the petitioner on that regard saying, "I will not take any submissions like that, you can go wherever you want. I will leave open all your other contentions".

Shenoy then said that for the time being, the petitioner would be satisfied if he is allowed to visit the Country for a period of seven days.

Senior Advocate Arun Kumar, appearing for the contract employer, submitted that if the intention of the petitioner is to only take his belongings from his apartment and go back to his country, it will not stand in his way, as long he is here for that purpose alone.

Assistant Solicitor General Girish Kumar stated that the Central government would not stand in the way as long as the petitioner is in India only for a week.

Recording these submissions and leaving open the other contentions of the petitioner, the Court disposed the matter.

[Read Judgement]

Capt. Pedro Artilheiro v. Union of India & Ors. - judgement.pdf

Note: The initial heading of this story conveyed the impression that the case was rejected without a hearing. It has been rectified to reflect the correct position. Error is regretted.

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