Air Asia Crashes Against Gaurav Taneja; Court Says Airline Suppressed Facts

Captain Gaurav Taneja (Ex-Air Asia Pilot and Youtuber) had recently unearthed several Safety Violations by Air Asia on his popular Youtube Channel- Flying Beast

A Civil Court had earlier granted injunction against Mr. Taneja, but later on the Court found that Air Asia suppressed material facts and documents while approaching the court, therefore the Court vacated the injunction.

Air Asia has filed Suit before a Civil Court in Rural Bengaluru against Captain Gaurav Taneja Claiming Damages and injunction.

Air Asia (Plaintiff) filed I.A.No.1 under Order 39 Rule 1 of CPC. praying to restrain the Captain Gaurav Taneja (Defendant) from divulging, disclosing, revealing, publishing, sharing and/or disseminating any confidential and proprietary information or any other confidential information to any third person, etc. without the specific and explicit permission of the Air Asia, resulting in the breach of contractual, confidentiality and fiduciary duty, till disposal of the suit.

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The suit arose out of wrongs done to Air Asia and relates to the material breach of Employment Contract/Appointment Letter dated 01.02.2019 (Employment Contract) by the Gaurav Taneja as well as the nondisclosure agreement and the Group Communication Policy.

Air Asia pleaded that acts of Gaurav Taneja are contrary to the employment contract and as such, Gaurav Taneja, as per the employment contract, has undertaken and is liable to make good the losses caused and indemnify the Air Asia company against any and all losses suffered by it on account of his acts of omission and commission. 

It has further been stated in the Plant that as a part of Gaurav Taneja’s employment agreement, awarded the defendant with a joining bonus of Rs.15,00,000/- to be paid 50% with the first salary and 50% at the time of Gaurav Taneja’s first year anniversary with the plaintiff company. It was expressly stated in the employment agreement that in case the defendant leaves the employment of the company within 24 months of the date of joining, the amount of joining bonus would be recoverable from Gaurav Taneja by the Air Asiaf company.

Air Asia Alleged that Gaurav Taneja, without any intimation to the plaintiff company and by misusing the Authorization Letter issued to him, admittedly travelled from Delhi to Kanpur. During his journey, Gaurav Taneja was wearing his company provided Captain’s Uniform and was misusing the same along with his company ID Card and Authorization Letter at the state border between the states of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to deceive the officials and cross the border

In view of such breaches and misconduct, the Air Asia issued show-cause notice and thereafter, Gaurav Taneja was suspended. Later on, Air Asia dismissed Gaurav Taneja from the services of the Air Asia on 26.06.2020. 

Air Asia further pleaded that Gaurav Taneja is using his social media accounts to damage the image of the Air Asia.

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The Counsel for Captain Gaurav Tanjea refuted the submissions and allegation of Air Asia and submitted that the application filed by the plaintiff is neither maintainable in law nor in facts and circumstances of the case.This court has no territorial or subject matter jurisdiction to entertain this matter and the pleadings is vague and no specific cause of action is pointed out in the plaint or in the interim application. Hence, is liable to be rejected in limine.

It was submitted on behalf of Gaurav Taneja that the Air Asia is guilty of suppression of material facts pertaining to the case and has approached the Hon’ble court with unclean hands. The plaintiff company suppressed that the Regulator, i.e. the DGCA had taken action on the plaintiff company based on the complaint of Gaurav Taneja and has suspended the top officers of the plaintiff company. 

Gaurav Taneja’s Counsel submitted that the Director of operations and the Chief of Flight Safety have been suspended by the DGCA based on the complaint of Gaurav Taneja. The interim order has been obtained by the Air Asia by playing fraud upon this Hon’ble court. Hence, the interim order is nonest in the eye of law.

Gaurav Taneja clearly stated that the defendant being a Pilot does not have’confidential information’ related to the company and therefore, has not disclosed any confidential information. 

It was further submitted that the real motive of the Air Asia company is dissuading Gaurav Taneja from disclosing the fact that the plaintiff company is indulging in unsafe acts that endanger human lives. These acts constitute a criminal act and Gaurav Taneja has already filed a complaint with the DGCA on 5th June 2020 and a complaint disclosing criminal acts has been filed with the Lodhi Colony Police Station, New Delhi on 5th September 2020. 

The Counsel of Gaurav Taneja further stated that the plaintiff company indulged in several unsafe acts intended to cut operational costs. The treating of ‘sick leave’ as a ‘rest period, forcing pilots to land on Flap 3 irrespective of external conditions, not complying with the DGCA circular on Covid 19 all were intended to save costs.

Gaurav Taneja is a whistle blower who stood up against such unsafe acts and the fact that the DGCA acted against the pc and its officers is a standing testimony to that fact. After having stood up, there have been more disclosures done by third parties which even showed that the Air Asia company had a project called ‘Project Shikar’ which was about saving ‘fuel costs’.

It was submitted that top officers of the company would have been entitled to ‘bonus payments’ on the achievement of targets and the whole scheme of introducing ‘unsafe acts’ in operations were the design of the top officers of the company against whom the DGCA have now taken action against.

Further, it was also submitted on behalf of Gaurav Taneja that, any pilot who is authorized to fly a plane under the license issued by DGCA has his primary duty the safety of the passengers and the aircraft he/she flies. A pilot is duty bound to ensure that all safety protocols are adhered to in the manned prescribed by the DGCA so as to ensure that safety standards are effectively maintained by the Company’s operating flights.

With respect to rules regarding landing, it was submitted that the Air Asia company had practices that threatened safety which consequently endangered human lives. There are two ways of normal landing, flap 3 and flap full.

As per regulation, the rule is very simple. It is completely pilot in command’s decision. Flap 3 landing can be dangerous, hence as per regulation, the PIC may decide to do full flap landing. The Air Asiaf company mandated a flap 3 landing because it resulted in fuel saving. 

After hearing the Parties, B. Dileep Kumar, Senior Civil Judge & JMFC., Devanahalli framed the following questions:

  1. Whether the Air Asia has made out prima-facie case for grant of an order of equitable relief of temporary injunction against Gaurav Taneja?
  2. Whether the Air Asia will be put to irreparable injury and hardship, in case an order of temporary injunction is not granted against Gaurav Taneja?
  3. Is the balance of convenience lays tilts in favour of the Air Asia?
  4. What order?

Observation/Decision on Point No. 1 to 3

After considering the employment contract and non-disclosure and non-compete agreement the court found no violation as alleged by the Air Asia company.

The Court observed that Gaurav Taneja being the pilot did as per the regulation of DGCA. Gaurav Taneja being the responsible employee intimated several drawbacks of its company to the Air Asia company, but when his words having not considered, he approached the authority i.e. DGCA by way of a written complaint.

Further, the Court observed that the Air Asia company suppressing this aspect moved an application and obtained an order of injunction. This is due to silencing the defendant from raising the safety issues and to minimize the fall out of the suspension order of the DGCA. It means, what Gaurav Taneja published in social media is the truth and it was properly enquired by the authority. Wherefore, it is not confidential information. Hence, the allegations of the Air Asia about violations of the safety are indeed correct.

Court found that the Air Asia company suppressed the above all aspects while presenting its case before this court. Court said that it believing the averments of plaint and documents granted an order of injunction holding that it cannot be compensated in terms of money. After the appearance of the defendant, the documents produced by the defendant and the re-joinder filed by the Air Asia shows that the Air Asia not disclosed each and every aspect to get an order of equity. 

Hence, the court held that, Air Asia has not made out prima-facie case and balance of convenience. If at all any damages caused to the Air Asia it can be monetarily assessed.

Observation/Decision on Point No. 4

Considering the above court dismissed the I.A.No.1 filed by the Air Asia and the ex-parte temporary injunction granted in favour of the plaintiff has been vacated.

Case Details:

Title: Air Asia (India) Ltd. vs Shri Gaurav Taneja

Case No: O.S. No. 522 of 2020

Court: Senior Civil Judge & J.M.F.C., At Devanahall

Quorum: B. Dileep Kumar, Senior Civil Judge & JMFC., Devanahalli

Advocate of Plaintiff- Shri G.H. R

Advocate of Defendant– Shri G.N.

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