India’s national carrier Air India on Tuesday cancelled 185 flights due to the stir by nearly half of its 1,600 pilots, whose nine union leaders were served notice for criminal contempt of court for disobeying an order to immediately end the agitation. A two-member bench of the Delhi high court issued notice to the nine pilots who are office bearers of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) — the union that has called the strike — for ignoring a stay order on the agitation last Friday. “All the nine should remain present in the court while the criminal contempt proceedings shall be carried out May 25,” said the two-member bench of justice BD Ahmed and justice Veena Birbal. The nine including the president and general secretary are: AS Bhinder, Rishab Kapoor, Ramesh Gangadharan, Rajesh Kuyeskar, Ritesh Mathankar, Nitin Mahengade, Anup Jain, Amitesh Ahuja and Sakeel Naqvi. “We will continue our strike. We are prepared to face any consequence. We know we are right and we have the support of 800 pilots with us,” Captain Bhinder said after the court notice, adding, “We will also appeal against this notice soon.”
Close to half of Air India’s 1,600 pilots, who were earlier working for the now defunct Indian Airlines have been on strike since April 26 midnight, demanding parity in pay with their counterparts in Air India. Indian Airlines was merged with Air India in 2007. Speaking on the situation on Day Seven of the strike, a senior Air India official said, “We operated around 40 flights on our domestic network today and some 185 flights were cancelled. So far, the strike has caused a direct loss of over Rs 70 crore.” The official said the curtailed operation of the airline was still on and that the load factor of passengers had also reduced since fresh bookings were stalled till May 6. “We will be able to tide over this soon.”
As per the new contingency plan the airline will run 100-120 flights on the domestic and regional overseas sector, including the operations of the sister domestic budget carrier till the strike continues, said the official. Air India has also hired an Airbus aircraft of Kingfisher Airlines to lessen the burden of passengers. Under the operations plan, the airline will fly fewer flights and only use wide-bodied aircraft.
During the hearing on contempt proceedings, the court on Tuesday appointed senior advocate Sidharth Luthra amicus curiae to assist in the impasse between the management and its striking pilots, and asked the two sides to “put an end” to it immediately. The observations sought by the amicus curiae, literally meaning friend of the court in Latin, will be on point of law and it will be up to the bench to decide whether or not to admit such information while adjudicating the case.
The two-member bench had on Monday started hearing criminal contempt proceedings against the office bearers of the union, that has called the strike, for ignoring a stay order on the agitation. “You are causing huge loss to the nation. Tell us who will pay this bill,” the bench of justice Ahmed and justice Birbal asked both the management and the office bearers of the striking union. “By disrupting the life of our citizens, you are causing a great loss to the nation and the citizens both. This loss has now to be taken from the tax-payer. Citizens will have to pay doubly.”
The management, meanwhile, sought public support for its actions, even questioning if the stir was justified. “Majority of them (striking pilots) draw over Rs 3.88 lakh per month and up to Rs 7 lakh per month, besides other benefits, including free passages,” the state-run airline said in an advertisement released in some newspapers. “Over 10,000 esteemed passengers (are) stranded daily. Over 40,000 inconvenienced so far,” said the airline, asking: “Should financially critical Air India, on government support, succumb to such blackmail?” The airline has also decided not to pay the striking pilots during the duration of their stir and withdraw the free passage on the airline’s flights given to them and their families, sources in the carrier said.
The pilots, meanwhile, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again and reiterated their demand for pay parity with former pilots of Indian Airlines, now co-opted into Air India after the merger in 2007, and thorough probe into its alleged financial mismanagement. They have already demanded the ouster of chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav. But the government has, thus far, fully backed the Air India management, and refused talks till they call off their stir and report back to their stations.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.