The Air India-Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) wrote to the airline's chairman on Thursday, alleging that the airline's ban on the use of social media and regulation in this regard is unconstitutional and infringes on a constitutional right. They went on to say that this is a "veiled threat" that has been placed on workers under the guise of guidelines and an advisory.
The letter, written to the airline's Chairman and MD (CMD) Rajiv Bansal, read, "At the outset, we note with alarm that such a Policy introduced by Air India is entirely illegal and with no basis in law whatsoever. By way of the Policy, Air India has effectively imposed a blanket ban or prohibition on the use of social or digital media by all its employees, including those that have superannuated."
The pilots association also mentioned that they had reviewed Air India's policy, and found that the policy prohibits all Air India staff, both current and retired, from posting any material on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other similar platforms. The letter added, "At present, there is no law in India that either empowers or even remotely justifies such an act by an employer, especially Air India, being a State instrumentality under Article 12 of the Constitution, to impose such a blanket ban on the use of social or digital media by its employees. The same, it is reiterated, is without any basis or lawful sanction."
Highlighting the fundamental rights of the employees under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, the letter stated, "The present Policy introduced by Air India, is also, and most importantly, violates the fundamental right of freedom and speech, guaranteed to the employees of Air India, under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, being citizens of India. For instance, not only does the Policy not distinguish between content uploaded through an official device and a personal device, the Policy goes on to in fact, expressly include content uploaded through personal devices of all its employees."
Air India's policy states that workers should refrain from publishing personal views that contradict the organization's message or on policy issues relating to the aviation industry. Air India also reserves the right to track comments or discussions about the company, staff, customers in its new policy. The rules apply to all forms of social media activity, including indirect participation, which occurs when an employee does not have a profile or social media account but endorses or engages in content or discussion in a negative way.
(with inputs from ANI)