Withdrawal of Resignation in Air India Pilot Case

In a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India, the case of withdrawal of resignation by a pilot from Air India has been thoroughly examined. The judgment discusses the unique considerations for pilots in air transport undertakings and emphasizes the importance of notice periods for a smooth transition. Stay informed about the legal principles governing the withdrawal of resignation in vital sectors like aviation.


  • The respondent had withdrawn his resignation and requested to be rostered for future flights from 02.01.2018.
  • A letter was received from the Advocates of the respondent stating the withdrawal of resignation.
  • The respondent was given 6 months’ leave which was to expire on 25.05.1947.
  • The Writ Petition challenging the letters dated 02.09.2017 and 04.01.2018 was filed by the respondent before the High Court.
  • The Division Bench of the High Court affirmed the view taken by the Single Judge in favor of the respondent in the Writ Petition.
  • An objection regarding territorial jurisdiction was rejected by the appellants.
  • The submission that the age of retirement was 60 years was also rejected by the Court.
  • The officer withdrew his resignation before the date could be intimated and a formal notification could be issued.
  • An officer’s challenge regarding the effective date of resignation was rejected by the High Court.
  • The resignation was held to become effective on the date the Government of India accepted it.
  • The letters written by the officer did not indicate that the resignation was not effective until acceptance was informed.
  • The Division Bench of the High Court rejected the challenge in a judgment dated 09.04.2018.
  • The Division Bench relied on previous court decisions to support the idea that a resignation could be withdrawn before actual relief from service.
  • The appellants filed a Writ Appeal against the Single Judge’s decision.
  • The Division Bench confirmed the legal position that an employee can withdraw a resignation before the notice period expires.

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  • Whether the respondent pilot could withdraw her resignation that was tendered on 03.07.2017

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  • In normal circumstances, an employee who has tendered resignation can withdraw it before it becomes effective.
  • Exceptions to this rule as per previous decisions by the court include Union of India v. Gopal Chandra Mishra and Balram Gupta v. Union of India.
  • Pilot positions were considered differently by the CAR due to the unique nature of their roles and the cost involved in finding replacements.
  • The concerned Government servant was to attain the age of 55 years on 26.11.1946.
  • The law allows an employee to withdraw a resignation before it comes into effect.
  • Resignation submitted was to come into effect from a prospective date, allowing the respondent to withdraw it before going into operation.
  • The appellant had taken steps for finding and training an alternative pilot, falling within exceptions acknowledged by the Court.
  • The fact that the appellant had to incur expenditure in training another pilot was deemed irrelevant due to the regular nature of such requirements for an organization like Air India.
  • The respondent was not allowed to join her duties after tendering her resignation, moving on to work as a pilot with Jet Airways until its operations closed. Currently, she is not employed as a pilot in any airline.
  • The circumstances under which an employee can withdraw a resignation and the limitations to this right have been discussed in various decisions by the Court.

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  • CAR provides guidelines for notice period regarding pilots and employers.
  • Pilots are not allowed to refuse flight duties during notice period.
  • The employer cannot deprive the pilot of legitimate rights and privileges during the notice period.
  • If a pilot resigns in writing, the resignation is immediate and cannot be withdrawn.
  • The judgement discussed the concept of ‘prospective resignation’ in the context of pilots in air transport undertakings.
  • It emphasized the importance of notice periods for pilots intending to leave their jobs to ensure a smooth transition and prevent last-minute flight cancellations.
  • The judgement highlighted that withdrawal of resignation is typically allowed until it becomes effective, subject to specific regulations and terms of employment.
  • It mentioned the necessity for air transport undertakings to find suitable replacements within the notice period to avoid disruptions in services.
  • The ruling underscored the significance of public interest over individual employee interests when it comes to resignation practices in vital sectors like aviation.
  • The judgement clarified that provisions for withdrawal of resignation may vary depending on the governing regulations and must align with the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Public servants cannot withdraw their resignation after it is accepted by the appropriate authority unless there is a law or rule governing the conditions of service that allows for it.
  • The case of Union of India and others v. Gopal Chandra Mishra and others established principles that have been followed in subsequent cases.
  • Regulation 20 of Punjab National Bank Officers Service Regulation, 1979 required officers to give three months’ notice in writing before resigning.
  • No rule under Article 309 of the Constitution states that an order accepting resignation must be communicated to be effective.
  • An order of dismissal must be communicated to the officer concerned to take effect.
  • The termination of employment by government order only becomes effective once communicated to the employee.
  • The CAR highlights the importance of giving a minimum notice period before resigning to avoid disruptions in services like flight cancellations.
  • Modern principles advocate for not restricting people’s freedom to change their decisions.
  • The notice period of six months was a requirement under the CAR and the terms of the appointment.
  • The intimation of resignation from the respondent was clear and unequivocal.
  • The option to leave the company without completing the notice period was available if the respondent was forced to stay away from home for extended periods during the notice period.


  • Captain G.K. Sandhu submitted her resignation on 03.07.2017.
  • Company policy required a 6-month notice period for resignation.
  • The company accepted Sandhu’s resignation and appointed a replacement pilot.
  • Sandhu later attempted to withdraw her resignation through an email on 18.12.2017.
  • The company did not allow the withdrawal of the resignation.
  • The court held that Sandhu could not retract her resignation.
  • The court allowed the appeal and dismissed the writ petition.
  • The company incurred training costs for the replacement pilot.


Case Number: C.A. No.-006567-006567 / 2019

Click here to read/download original judgement

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