The Delhi High Court recently came to the rescue of an air hostess who was denied reinstatement by Airlines Allied Services Ltd. after she took an 18 months sick leave.
The Petition had challenged the dismissal of one Ms. Chitra Sharma, whose contract, which had till now been renewed automatically every three years, had been terminated while she was on a sick leave.
The termination was contended to be arbitrary, submitting that contractual employment cannot be terminated without providing valid reasons for the same. Ms. Sharma had further contended that the employment policy of engaging airhostesses on contractual basis exposes female employees to the likelihood of arbitrary termination.
The Airlines, on the other hand, had contended that Ms. Sharma's contract was not renewed as she had, in fact, taken an unauthorized leave.
The Court, however, opined that the Airlines Alliance was not justified in denying renewal of her contract, opining that she was being discriminated against merely because she had fallen ill.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur opined that the " refusal to renewal has, resulted in the appellant, who has worked faithfully for 5 consecutive terms, being discriminated against, for falling ill."
The Court then observed, "As a state agency, bound by Article 14 of the Constitution of India, it was incumbent upon Alliance Airlines to reasonably accommodate the appellant and ensure that her contract was renewed, without the period of her illness coming in the way of consideration of her case. Its refusal to do so clearly amounts to hostile and discriminatory treatment, not justified by the reasons given to the court. It also amounts to an indirect method to get rid of older employees – perhaps to prefer younger personnel,"
It, thereafter, held that Ms. Sharma's dismissal was arbitrary and directed the Airline to renew her contract within four weeks.