HC Dismisses Pleas of Air India Employees Unions Against Eviction From Staff Quarters After Privatization

 The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed petitions filed by three Air India Employees’ Unions challenging the airline’s decision to evict them from the staff quarters at suburban Kalina noting accommodation is not provided as a matter of right and was not a term of employment.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne also said monetization of lands and properties of Air India Limited was one of the essential terms of the airline’s disinvestment process.

The court said if employees continue to hold on to flats then Air India Asset Holding Company would not be able to monetize the land to reduce the burden of Air India’s debt.

The bench, however, stayed its order for two weeks to let the unions appeal in the Supreme Court.

The petitioner unions had submitted housing forms an integral part of employment with the airlines, while Air India claimed the allottees are merely licensees in respect of accommodation and that housing is not provided to them as a term of employment.

The court referred to Air India’s housing allotment rules and noted accommodations was allotted to employees by drawing a list as and when accommodation became available.

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“It is not that every employee is granted accommodation as a matter of right,” HC said.

The HC said the petitioner unions have not placed on record any material to show provision of ‘housing’ is one of the terms of employment.

“On the contrary, perusal of the Housing Rules, Leave and License Agreement and order of appointment clearly suggests housing does not appear to be a term of employment. No right is created in favour of employee to seek allotment of accommodation,” the HC said.

Out of 3000 flats, only 410 flats continue to be in occupation, of which 238 employees have submitted undertakings to vacate their flats, the HC said.

Thus the petitions seem to be pressed to protect interest of only 142 employees who are yet to show willingness to vacate the flats, it added.

“Monetization of lands and properties of Air India is one of the essential terms of disinvestment process. If such a small number of employees continue to hold on to the accommodations, the Air India Asset Holding Company Limited will not be able to monetize the land to reduce the burden of debt of AIL put on it,” the HC said.

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