The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hostess too heavy for airline, rules HC

Calcutta, Jan. 21: Calcutta High Court has upheld Indian Airlines’ dismissal of an airhostess for being overweight.

Nipa Dhar (37) — who could not cut down because of a psychological problem — was served the termination letter on September 22, 2003, by the airline on the ground that she had not complied with the weight limit specified for airhostesses despite several opportunities to reduce.

When Dhar joined the airline as a trainee in 1987, service rules said an airhostess would have to maintain a certain weight in proportion to her height and age. Fourteen years later, in 2001, a letter from the personnel department pointed out that she was overweight by 10 kg and advised her to contact the medical wing. But despite efforts to reduce, Dhar remained overweight.

Six days before she received the termination letter, the authorities had issued a circular that gave an opportunity for overweight airhostesses to be re-deployed for ground or kitchen duties. Dhar applied but, instead of being reassigned, was served with the termination letter. Dhar then filed a petition in the high court, starting a rare case in the airline’s annals.

At the hearings, Dhar’s lawyer Madhumita Roy pointed out that her client was suffering from “phobic anxiety”, which had led to the weight problem. She argued that as the airline’s medical department had detected the disorder, she should have been assigned ground duty according to the circular.

Advocate R.L. Majumdar, who represented the airline, countered, saying the conditions of appointment — which the petitioner had agreed to at the time of joining — made it clear that an airhostess was to maintain the specified dress, health and weight code.

“The airline had given her an opportunity to cut down her excess weight in consultation with the medical team. When all efforts did not succeed, Indian Airlines was forced to issue a letter terminating her service,” the counsel said.

In his order issued today, Justice Girish Chandra Gupta agreed with Majumdar’s line of argument and upheld the airline’s decision. “However,” he added, “on humanitarian grounds, the Indian Airlines authorities may consider the petitioner’s application for re-deployment to ground duties.”

Dhar’s counsel said they would appeal before a division bench.

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