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A-I hostesses fall from sky: bowout age back to 50

New Delhi, July 11: The Supreme Court today restricted the flying age of Air-India airhostesses to 50, setting aside a Bombay High Court order raising it to 58.

Air-India’s male cabin crew fly till 58, but the airhostesses have to take up ground duty at 50. On an appeal by the airhostesses’ association, which argued this provision was discriminatory, the high court had raised the flying age to 58 and ordered the merger of the male and female service cadre. The two cadre are separate in terms of duty and payment.

Air-India approached the apex court against the ruling and a division bench of Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari today struck it down.

“The directives (reducing the flying age of airhostesses and non-parity in service conditions of male and female cadre) cannot be held to be in any manner in violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution or the Equal Remuneration Act,” the court said. “We have held that the conditions of retirement are not a discrimination based only on sex.”

But the Supreme Court said it was open to the Centre to refer these two points to the National Industrial Tribunal, which is already looking into the dispute.

Justice Dharmadhikari, writing the 62-page judgment, ruled out issuing a directive to the Centre to increase the scope of the dispute before the tribunal.

“We do not consider it proper or necessary for us to make any direction in the pending reference to the National Industrial Tribunal as in doing so, we would be committing a similar mistake as was done by the high court,” the judges said.

The high court had accepted a petition from the airhostesses though a reference was pending before the tribunal.

The Supreme Court said it would be open to the airhostesses’ association “to make their demands in the pending reference before the tribunal by seeking a fresh reference from the central government”.

The airhostesses had contended that the different age limits for the male and female cadre violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which guaranteed “equality before and equal application of law”.

Article 14 mandates that “the state shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the law within the territory of India”. Article 15 prohibits “discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth” and Article 16 provides for “equality of opportunity in matters of public employment”.

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