Akasa Air moves Bombay High Court seeking damages worth crores from 5 pilots who resigned without notice
The next date of hearing has been scheduled for 25 September
Indian airline company Akasa Air has filed a suit before the Bombay High Court seeking compensation of Rs.21 crores each from five pilots who resigned from the company.
In the SNV Aviation Pvt Ltd vs. Capt. Gareema Kumar and others’ case, the plea stated that the pilots exited the company abruptly without serving the mandatory six-month notice period.
The low-cost airline sought an order directing the pilots to pay Rs.18 lakh for breach of contract and Rs.21 crores each for damages to the airline’s reputation due to flight cancellations, rescheduling, and grounding. It further pleaded for an interim direction to the pilots to serve their notice period.
The matter was heard by a single-judge Bench of Justice SM Modak.
The pilots claimed that the cause for the dispute between the parties arose outside Mumbai, hence, the Bombay High Court had no jurisdiction over the matter. They maintained that before seeking any relief, the airline company was required to obtain leave of the Court under clause XII of the Original Side Rules of the High Court to continue with its suit in Mumbai.
The airline filed the suit through the law firm Trilegal. It pointed out that the pilots executed individual employment agreements and a training agreement with the company. The agreement specified that they had to serve a six-month notice period after resigning.
Appearing on behalf of Akasa Air, Senior Advocate Janak Dwarkadas clarified that the contract specifically stated that any disputes arising from the contract were exclusively to be filed before Courts and judicial forums in Mumbai.
The training agreement also specified that the term of training was two years and in the event the pilot breached the agreement, an amount of Rs.18 lakh would be payable to the company by the concerned pilot. While signing the agreement, the pilots were directed to submit four undated cheques to the company, which could be encashed in Mumbai in case of breach of the agreement.
The advocate argued that since the pilots executed the agreements in Mumbai and the company received their resignation notices in Mumbai, the cause of action arising from the breach of the contract arose in Mumbai. Therefore, the suit was maintainable before the Bombay High Court.
He pointed out that the pilots could dispute the facts raised by the company but that would be decided by the Court at the interim stage after hearing the parties on merit.
Representing one of the pilots, Senior Advocate Darius Khambata vehemently opposed the application for leave under clause XII. He stated that one could not choose Court jurisdiction by way of contract and no Court could be given exclusive jurisdiction under a contract.
He further submitted that the agreement was executed outside Mumbai. The company had sent hard copies of the agreements to the pilots for signatures, and they sent them back to the company.
Advocate Khambatta argued that the pilots had sent their resignations from places outside Mumbai. Thus, the place where the resignation was accepted could not be the jurisdiction of the Court. He highlighted that since the Delhi High Court had higher fees, the company was filing its suit in Mumbai.
Akasa was represented by the Trilegal team, wherein Janak Dwarkadas was supported by Advocates Ashish Bhan, Aayush Mitruka, Lisa Mishra, Sonal Singh, Preksha Gupta, and Abhinav Shrivastav.
Briefed by Rashmikant and Partners Darius Khambatta, who appeared for the pilots, was supported by Senior Advocate Zal Andhyarujina and Advocates Rohan Dakshini, Shweta Jaydev, Janaki Garde, Chandrajit Das, Feroza Bharucha, and Arya Gadagkar.