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is there any decision on air hostess retiring?


Whether an air hostess should retire at the age of 35 or becoming pregnant?

whether this amounts to violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15 and 16 (no discrimination on basis of s*x) of the Constitution.

Is there any decision on this?


Forum Moderator

 Air India v/s Nergesh Meerza (1981) 4 SCC 335

Coram: M. Fazal Ali, A. Varadarajan and A.N. Sen, JJ

Facts: Under the relevant regulation of Air India Corporation (AIC, hereafter) Act and Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC) Act, there was a discrimination made between the conditions of retirement and termination of service pertaining to air hostesses (AH) and those of male pursers (MP) forming part of the same cabin crew and performing similar duties. These conditions were that an AH under AIC retired from service:

i)                    on attaining the age of 35 years, or

ii)                   on marriage, if it took place within four years of service, or

iii)                 on first pregnancy

Fact in Issue: whether this amounts to violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15 and 16 (no discrimination on basis of s*x) of the Constitution.

1. Contentions of the AH on the grounds of violation of Article 14 were two fold:

a) discrimination made between the AH & MP who are similarly circumstanced is violative of Article 14. Held: Article 14 prohibits only hostile discrimination and not reasonable classification; unequals may be treated unequally. AH, though forming the part of the same cabin crew as MP, formed a different class in respect of qualifications for entry into service, in grades of salary, number of posts, and promotional avenues. They may therefore be treated differently without violating the spirit of article 14.

i. conditions of retirement and termination of services are manifestly and patently unreasonable and arbitrary and therefore violative of article 14.

Held: Stating that it is settled law that article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in state action and that the principle of reasonableness "pervades article 14 like a brooding omnipresence", the court examined all the three conditions separately.

i. so far as condition (ii) was concerned, this condition was held to be constitutionally valid. Having regard to the difficulties faced by both the parties, the court could not find any constitutional infirmity in the provision requiring the AH to serve the corporation with complete dedication for the first 4 years.

ii. So far as condition (iii) was concerned the court took strong exception to it and held it to be "grossly unethical" and as smacking of "deep rooted sense of utter selfishness at the cost of all human values". Having taken the AH in service and after utilising her services for 4 years, to terminate her services if she becomes pregnant would amount to compelling her not to have any children. The ability / capacity to continue to work after having children is an individual matter and whether she would find it difficult to look after the children or not is her personal matter which affects the AH concerned and not the airline. Pregnancy is not a disability; it is a "natural consequence of marriage" and any distinction made on the ground of pregnancy is extremely unreasonable and manifestly arbitrary. This condition was held to be unconstitutional as violative of article 14 and was struck down.

iii. In respect of condition (i) the court held that the age of retirement is to be fixed by the management after taking into account various factors such as the nature of work, prevailing conditions, practice prevailing in other establishment, etc.. Without deciding whether 35 years is the correct age for retirement, the court went on to strike at regulation 47. Under this regulation the managing director (MD) had an uncontrolled and unguided discretionary power to grant yearly extensions to the AH till the age of 45. This unguided discretion vested with the MD could easily result in his treating similarly placed AH differently and was therefore struck down. The result was that unless the management amended the provision, all AH would continue to retire at 45 years of age and the MD would be bound to grant yearly extension as a matter of course, if the AH was medically fit.

b) Whether there was violation of article 15 (1) and 16 (2)?

Contention of AH: AH were particularly selected for hostile discrimination on the ground of s*x or disabilities arising from s*x.

Held: what article 15 (1) and 16 (2) prohibit is that the discrimination should not be made only and only on the ground of s*x. Discrimination on the basis of s*x coupled with other considerations is not prohibited.

The Court cited Krishna Iyer, J. in Muthamma V/s UOI, (AIR 1979 SC 1868):

"We do not mean to dogmatise or universalise that men and women are equal in all occupations and situations and do not exclude the need to pragmatise where the requirements of particular employment, the sensitivities of s*x or peculiarities of societal sectors or handicaps of either s*x may compel selectivity. But save where the differentiation is demonstrable, the rule of equality must govern".



Legal Consultant/Lawyer



But as per the Later judgements of Supreme Court of India, and Delhi High Court, after the Circular of Govt of India and Air India  in the following Judgements directed  as :



Air India Cabin Crew Association vs Yeshawinee Merchant And Ors. 


Rajendra Grover And Ors. vs Air India Ltd. And Ors. 


Attached File : 38 air hostess-3.doc downloaded 164 times

 Respected Mr. Y.Prakash & Md. AEJAZ AHMED, thanx for the valuable judgements & collection respectively provided by you.

Legal Consultant/Lawyer


As Per the Judgement of SC, 

  Retirement Age of Air Hostesses

JJ Doraiswamy RajuD M Dharmadhikari

The following is an extract from the judgement of the Supreme Court of India (Civil Appellate Jurisdiction) civil appeal no. 4570 of 2002. Air India Cabin Crew Association v Yeshawinee Merchant and others.


"We have already found above that early retirement age fixed for women for flying duties with option to them to go after 50 years of age to ground duties is a condition of service fixed after negotiations and settlements with association of air hostesses represented by AICCA with appropriately matching numerous advantages and betterment to match them.


"We have also found that early retirement age for women from flying duties has been found favourable by majority of air hostesses represented through the appellant/AICCA before us who support the age of retirement and option for ground duties given to them. Air India is a travel industry. Pleasing appearance, manners and physical fitness are required for members of the crew of both s*xes. The airhostesses have agreed to the early retirement age, as they need an option to go for ground duties after the age of 50 years. The arguments advanced on behalf of respondent/association, therefore, cannot be accepted that the airhostesses are made to retire at an age earlier than males because of their falling physical appearance and it is a practice derogatory to the dignity of women. For services on board of an aircraft both male and female members of the crew are expected to be smart, alert and agile.


The early retirement age of 50 years from flying duties for female members of the crew with an option to them to accept ground duties beyond 50 years up to the age of 58 years being a service condition agreed to and incorporated in a binding agreement or settlement and award reached with the employer, the same cannot be held to be either arbitrary or discriminatory under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution. It is not a discrimination against females only on ground of s*x. As a result of the impugned judgment of the High Court, there would be merger of two cadres of airhostesses and flight pursers and the airhostesses would have to compulsorily continue on flying duties up to the age of 58 years even though for health and family reasons they are unable to fly after the age of 50 years.


On the order of the HC and after the merger of cadres of male and female employees, the females have to resign from their jobs if they do not want to fly up to the age of 58 years. The order of the HC requires the airhostesses to give up their more advantageous conditions of service for which they had held negotiations with the employer and obtained binding settlements and awards in the course of industrial adjudication"


JJ Doraiswamy Raju and D M Dharmadhikari


The detail Judgment is attached in File.

Attached File : 36 air hostess-2.doc downloaded 193 times
law student

thnx 2 every1 here....gud informative chat...


really amazing information!





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