SC to pilots: 3 flights in 9 hours doable
Pilots will have to fly for more hours. The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a Mumbai High Court order that had quashed the guidelines of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) directing airline pilots to fly three flights in nine hours.
The bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan issued the interim directions on the petition of Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati, who challenged the high court order. Vahanvati objected to the high court’s observation that the DGCA’s circular to restore the flying hours, which existed in 1992, was to please the airline operators.
The Solicitor General said, “World-wide the airline industry is in a mess. Flights are being cut down due to a rise in the fuel prices. The high court has erred in holding that the airlines are increasing the flights and the DGCA’s circular is to favour the companies. Also, this argument was never placed before the court, either by the petitioners or the respondents.”
Vahanvati further argued that the high court misread the statutory provisions and proceeded on surmises and conjectures. It overlooked the statutory rules by venturing into complex areas of policy and aviation, he said.
The Solicitor General criticised the two-judge bench of the high court who also gave a finding against the civil aviation minister for issuing the orders, increasing the number of flying hours for pilots. The high court had concluded that the minister “acted without application of mind in a most arbitrary and irrational manner”.
The Mumbai High Court had on July 1 restored the 2007 rules by quashing the recent circular of DGCA in public interest. “We find that the safety of the public at large and of pilots is very important and it can’t be put to stake because airline operators are suffering in business,” the judges had said. They further viewed that the DGCA should have followed the principles of natural justice by inviting suggestions and holding discussions with the stakeholders.