Haj is not for making profits, says apex court (Lead)

July 27th, 2012 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday said private tour operators (PTOs) engaged in travel and stay arrangements of Haj pilgrims going to Makkah and Madina could not undertake their enterprise with an eye to profits.

“Haj is not for making profits,” said the apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai in the course of the hearing of a batch of petitions by PTOs, seeking to be registered for the allocation of Haj seats.

While declining to interfere with the Haj policy related to PTOs for 2012, the court said there was a lot of scope for improvement.

The court said the policy should be “just, reasonable and fair” to all concerned and not lead to monopolisation of travels of the Haj pilgrims by a few private operators.

According to the Haj PTO policy for 2012, anyone with an annual turnover of Rs.1 crore in either 2009-10 or 2010-11 was eligible to be registered.

The PTOs, who moved the court Friday, contended that those who had a turnover of Rs.1 crore or more in year 2011-12 too should be considered for registering as Haj PTO.

They said that during 2009-10 and 2010-11, they had a turnover of Rs.50 lakh and in 2011-12, they had touched a turnover of Rs.1 crore and it made them eligible for registration and allocation of Haj seats.

As the senior counsel for the petitioners were making their pleas, Justice Alam told the lawyers that every day he was receiving two to three letters, “some with abuses”.

“All kind of letters are coming” because of the court’s decision not to let a husband and wife register as independent PTOs.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for one of the PTOs, said registration of Haj PTO should not be allowed to become an ‘Old Members’ Club’, monopolising over the pilgrims’ travel and stay arrangements.

“This (monoploising by some) is really bothering. This will become a frozen thing. You have to have a mechanism where there is space for freshers. Policy must have a scope for choice for consumers”, Dave told the court.

Justice Alam said: “We are not saying that Haj PTO policy was sacred or inalterable. If we accept Dave’s contention, then others will come asking why ceiling.”

Reiterating that the court was not going to make any changes in the Haj PTO policy for 2012, the court said “now we will focus on PTO policy”.

The court said the “anomalies pointed” to it would not survive in the next Haj PTO policy.

“This is not the last Haj. It is being performed and will continue to be performed”, the court said by way of reassuring the petitioners.

The attorney general said accepting the plea of the PTOs would lead the policy to the area of arbitrariness and that was exactly being sought to be avoided. This was reopening of the entire issue.

The court was given a report by counsel Haris Beeran on the registration of PTOs who had aired their grievance before the court that their applications were either refused or rejected even though they were qualified. In total, they were 244.

The report by Beeran said that after going through all the applications, 12 were approved for registration as Haj PTOs. Beeran was asked by the apex court to go through the applications.

For looking into the draft PTO policy for 2013, the court directed the listing of the matter in November.

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