Sheela Joshi & Ors. Vs. Indian Airlines Ltd.  INSC 1787 (7 December
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL Nos.8119-8123
OF 2009 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) Nos.22449-22453 OF 2008)
M/S. SHEELA JOSHI & ORS. ....APPELLANT(S) VERSUS ORDER SURINDER SINGH
The appellants are working as Air Hostesses with respondent/Indian
Airlines (hereinafter referred to as the Airlines). They were initially
appointed as trainee Air Hostesses on certain terms and conditions as contained
in the appointment letter. Clause 8 of the letter provided that they will be
governed by the Indian Airlines Service Regulations applicable to the Flying
Crew and Standing 2 Orders concerning discipline and appeals as framed/amended
by the Indian Airlines from time to time. Clause 9 of the letter provided that
during the period of training and on appointment as Air Hostesses their
services are liable to be terminated under the following circumstances:
in the event of your getting married before the specified period;
you:- a. failed to maintain the vision without glasses , b. do not maintain
weight within the prescribed limit; and, c. develop air sickness"
During their service the weight requirements were prescribed by
the respondent-Indian Airlines at various times. A number of circulars were
issued. All these circulars indicated the range of weight to be maintained by
the Air Hostesses. There was no discretion and relaxation of weight from 1981
to 1987. For the first time on 4.11.1987, in the circular issued by the respondent,
it 3 is provided that if the crew member's weight exceeded 10% of the outer
limit prescribed, he or she should be taken off flying duties and treated on
leave or leave without pay till he/she attains the standard weight.
relaxations in cases of flying over weight were subsequently allowed by various
other circulars. At the same time, the grace in the quantity of overweight was
also being gradually reduced. The other condition with regard to being taken
off flying duties was maintained.
4.5.2006 the respondent withdrew even the 3 kgs. grace in weight limit with
effect from 15.6.2006. It was enforced from 1.7.2006. The circular dated
4.5.2006 was challenged by the appellants by filing four separate writ
petitions. All the writ petitions were dismissed by the learned Single Judge by
a common judgment dated 31.5.2007. The learned Single Judge noticed that the
Air Hostesses were supposed to keep their body weight within the minimum and
the maximum prescribed limits.
known to the appellants, all along. It was a condition of their appointment.
They had knowingly and 4 willingly accepted the same. Therefore, this condition
fructified to consensual contract between the parties.
the condition with regard to being overweight was not being strictly enforced.
Now merely because concessions had been withdrawn the appellants could hardly
make a grievance of the same. According to the learned Single Judge by virtue
of Clause 9 of the appointment letter the services of the appellants could have
been terminated in the event of their not maintaining body weight as per the
weight chart. The learned Single Judge also observed that the appellants had
accepted all the earlier circulars as well as the grace of overweight upto 10
kgms. Therefore they had no justification to challenge the circular dated
these observations the writ petitions were dismissed.
The Division Bench in appeal took note of the submissions of the
appellants that Regulation 12 of the Airlines Flying Crew Service Regulations
only provided that the cabin crew should be medically fit. Since, all the 5
appellants were medically fit they could not be grounded or deprived of their
salaries merely on account of being overweight. The same submission had been
rejected by the learned Single Judge. The Division Bench after noticing the
circulars observed that merely because earlier some concessions were given by
not adhering to the body weight chart in stricto senso, it would not mean that
Airlines cannot now be allowed to withdraw those indulgences. No legal right
accrues in favour of the appellants merely by the grant of earlier concessions.
there is no legal right the concession could be withdrawn. The Division Bench
notices that the Airlines staff is required to maintain high standard of
to work in Aircrafts which fly at very high altitude. In cases of emergency
utmost fitness would be required. The Division Bench, therefore, accepted the
findings recorded by the learned Single Judge and dismissed the appeals.
We have heard the learned counsel for the appellants at length. It
is submitted by the learned 6 counsel that the action of the respondent in not
paying salary to the appellants during the period they were grounded is wholly
unjustified and without sanction of law.
At this stage we may notice that these appeals need not be decided
on merits, in view of the subsequent developments. It is not disputed that
during the pendency of the proceedings in this Court 11 out of 13 appellants
have reduced weight to satisfy the acceptable norms and are already back on
duty. Therefore, in our opinion, nothing remains to be decided in these
appeals, at this stage.
Learned counsel, however, submitted that in view of the observations
made by the High Court, action has been initiated against some of the Air
Hostesses who were overweight. Their services have been terminated. It is
submitted by the learned counsel that those employees whose services have been
terminated on the ground of being overweight have initiated legal proceedings.
They are apprehending that their claim would be prejudiced 7 due to the
observations made by the learned Single Judge as well as by the Division Bench
in the writ petitions and the appeals, respectively.
Learned Solicitor General, however, submits that observations were
merely to illustrate a point that the Airlines had shown indulgence to the Air
no grievance could be made by the withdrawal of the concessions. In any event
according to the learned Solicitor General termination of the services would
give a separate cause of action to each individual employee which would take
its own course. It is also brought to our notice by the learned Solicitor
General that pursuant to the orders passed by the High Court payments were
sought to be made to some of the appellants but the same were not accepted.
Therefore, the appellants cannot make a grievance at this stage that the
payment of dues has been illegally withheld.
We have considered the submissions made on behalf of both the
sides. We are of the opinion that it would be wholly inappropriate to express
any opinion on 8 the merits of the controversy in the appeal in view of the
fact that 11 of the original writ petitioners have rejoined duties. In case the
writ petitioners have any independent grievances with regard to the non-payment
or illegal withholding of any of the amounts due, the employees would be at
liberty to either approach the Airlines by making a representation or seeking
redress by appropriate legal proceedings. In order to further allay any fear of
the employees whose services have been terminated on the ground of overweight,
it is made clear that the proceedings taken out by the employees challenging
the order of the termination shall be decided on merits, without reference to
the opinion expressed either by the learned Single Judge in the writ petitions
or by the Division Bench in the appeals. The appeals are disposed of