The Indian Commercial Pilots Association, the representative body of the pilots of Air India, on Thursday wrote to its management, saying that its policy prohibiting the use of social media during and after office hours was illegal and without any basis of law, reported ANI.

Under the new policy, any Air India employee, whether serving or retired, cannot post on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, WhatsApp and Twitter, blogs or video channels, during or after duty hours, according to the Hindustan Times.

“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 union said in a letter to Air India chief Rajiv Bansal.

The union has asked Air India to drop the policy. “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 letter said. “The same, it is reiterated, is without any basis or lawful sanction.”

The union called the policy a veiled threat to employees under the garb of a set of guidelines and an advisory. “The present policy introduced by Air India, is most importantly, violative of 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,” it said.

The pilots’ body said that Air India’s policy, unlike the social media policies by other employers, does not even attempt to create a distinction between the content posted during working hours or from the workplace and that posted after working hours or outside of the workplace.

“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,” it said.

Stating the law and citing Supreme Court orders, the pilots said that the introduction and enforcement of the policy without consulting or discussing it with the employees, will result in multiple violations by them.