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Pilots appeal in Supreme Court against strenuous duty roster

National,Business, Mon, 01 Dec 2008 IANS

New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) A pilots' organisation has approached the Supreme Court against a strenuous duty roster that requires them to undertake up to three flights within their nine-hour daily schedule. The apex court Monday issued notices to the government on the matter.


A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam issued notices on the plea of the pilots' body, Joint Action Committee of Airlines Pilots' Association of India, challenging a ruling by the Bombay High Court last month upholding the 1992 duty roster.



The bench issued notices to the civil aviation ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), formed after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India.



On July 10, the apex court had restored the 1992 duty roster for pilots, ironically suspending a temporary order of the Bombay High Court which had on July 1 implemented a new duty roster under which pilots had to undertake only two flights during their daily duty schedule before earning a rest period of six hours.



The relaxed duty schedule involves a maximum of two take-offs and two landings within nine hours. It had been chalked out by the DGCA in 2007 after going over the issues of safety norms, crew fatigue etc.



The new schedule was in operation since August 2007 with due approval of the union Ministry of Civil Aviation.



But Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel had discarded the new duty roster 'overnight' on May 29 this year following representation from various airlines, including private ones.



The reason given by the minister was that the new roster was causing financial losses to the aviation sector as airlines were required to hire around 35 percent more pilots to continue their operations.



The Bombay High Court had on July 1 suspended the ministerial diktat on a plea by the pilots' body, which told the court that 30 percent of the accidents world-wide are caused due to pilots' fatigue which impairs their motor action and decision making powers.



'It appears that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had acted on the dictates of the concerned honourable minister without application of mind and in a most arbitrary and irrational manner' in suspending the relaxed duty norms for pilots, the high court had said in its ruling.



But the apex court on July 10 suspended the high court order on an urgent, joint lawsuit by the civil aviation ministry, the DGCA and the NACIL.



The apex court then had also asked the high court to expeditiously decide on the lawsuit by the pilots challenging the 1992 roster.



The high court in its ruling last month dismissed the pilots' plea and upheld the strenuous duty schedule.


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