Air India today asserted that its office circular which prevents union leaders from publicly airing their views about the airline's affairs was not a 'gag order' and a similar order had been upheld earlier by the Bombay High Court.
The 'gag order' was one of the crucial issues on which a section of its employees went on a flash strike yesterday, disrupting Air India's flight schedules.
Maintaining that the office order of July 2009, which was upheld by the court, "was only reiterated on May 24, 2010", the national carrier said some dailies had "interpreted a routine order of the company ... as a 'gag order'".
The airline also issued a copy of the Bombay High Court order of April 7 this year, which said the union leaders were "advised to desist from going public with their statements that have the potential of harming company's revenue earning prospects".
"Therefore, it is clear that there is no blanket ban on the right of the employees as office bearers of Unions/Associations/Guilds for freely airing views in the media, except for the aforesaid restriction," the court had said.
The court had given the ruling on the 2009 office order after it was challenged by the Aviation Industry Employees Guild, which had claimed that it was "violative of their fundamental rights to freedom of speech".
Air India said in a statement that it was "fully committed to upholding the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. The airline hopes that the above clarification will set at rest any misgivings".