Friday, July 8, 2016



                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 425 OF 2016 ETC.

AL ISMAIL HAJ TOUR                                 …        Petitioner


UNION OF INDIA                                     …        Respondent


                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 426 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 427 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 428 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 429 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 430 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 431 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 433 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 435 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 437 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 438 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 440 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 441 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 444 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 447 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 449 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 450 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 451 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 452 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 457 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 456 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 455 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 458 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 460 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 461 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 462 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 463 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 465 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 466 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 467 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 468 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 473 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 474 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 479 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 480 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 481 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 487 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 488 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 491 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 494 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 495 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 496 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 498 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 500 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 501 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 503 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 504 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 505 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 511 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 371 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 542 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 544 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 543 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 545 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 546 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 548 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 550 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 552 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 553 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 554 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 555 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 556 OF 2016

                   WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO. 541 OF 2016

                               J U D G M E N T

Chelameswar, J.

1.    This Court by its judgment in Union  of  India  &  Others  v.  Rafique
Shaikh Bhikan & Others (2013) 4 SCC 699 (hereinafter Rafique Shaikh  Bhikan,
2013), approved a policy (with some modification) framed  by  Government  of
India for the registration of Private Tour Operators (“PTOs”) for  HAJ  2013
(hereafter  referred to as “APPROVED POLICY”).  This Court opined that  such
a policy “avoids creation of any monopoly and makes provision for  entry  of
fresh players”.

2.    The modified and APPROVED  POLICY  is  appended  to  the  judgment  as
Appendix-‘I’[1].  It can be seen from the  said  judgment  that  though  the
policy as framed by the Government of India was  meant  only  for  one  year
i.e. for Haj 2013, this Court directed that it  would  be  the  “Policy  for
Private Tour Operators for Haj 2013-17” - valid for five years.

3.    Under the APPROVED POLICY, the PTOs were categorised into two  groups.
Category-I consists of  PTOs  who  were  registered  with  the  Ministry  of
External Affairs and facilitated Hajis at least  for  7  or  more  years  by
conducting Haj  tour  operations.   The  second  category  consists  of  two
classes of PTOs.  Class-I consists of PTOs who  had  facilitated  Hajis  for
less than 7 years and Class-II consists of the PTOs who had  facilitated  at
least 50 umrah pilgrims in a year for any five years.

4.    Obviously, the requisite experience for a PTO  to  be  categorized  in
one of the abovementioned two categories must be anterior to Haj  2013.   It
is to be noticed that though the APPROVED POLICY stipulated  “experience  of
conducting a  Haj  operation”  for  7  years  for  Category-I  and  5  years
experience of conducting “umrah operation” in second class  of  Category-II,
the Scheme did not stipulate that those years should be  consecutive  years,
or that they should be the immediate past 7 years or 5 years,  as  the  case
may be.  The consequences of classification are also specified in para 4  of
the Scheme;

“4. 70% of the overall quota of seats will be  allocated  to  eligible  PTOs
under  Category  3(I)  and  30%  to  eligible  PTOs  under  Category  3(II).
Distribution of seats among qualified PTOs will be done as follows:

(a)   70% of the Haj 2013 PTO seats (31,500) will be allocated  to  eligible
PTOs under Category 3(I) at the rate of 150  seats  per  PTO.  In  case  the
number of PTOs exceeds 210, the allocation of seats will be done on draw  of
lots. If the number of qualified PTOs is less than 210,  each  PTO  will  be
allocated 150 seats and surplus seats, if any, will be  distributed  equally
among them.

(b)   30% of Haj 2013 PTO seats (9000) will be allocated  to  eligible  PTOs
under Category 3(II) at the rate of 150 seats  per  qualified  PTO.  If  the
number of qualified PTOs exceeds 90, the allocation of seats  will  be  done
by draw of lots. In case the number of PTOs is less than 90, each  PTO  will
be allocated 150 seats. Balance  seats,  if  any,  will  be  transferred  to
Category I and distributed equally among them. A qualified PTO  which  fails
to get selected under the draw of lots in any year  will  be  allocated  150
seats in the ensuing year without qurrah if it remains a qualified PTO.

5.    There is no separate scheme or statute regulating the PTOs  conducting
umrah operations.  However,  we  are  informed  by  the  learned  Additional
Solicitor General that the Government of Saudi Arabia would not  permit  any
pilgrim for umrah through a PTO unless such PTO has a contract with  one  of
the agencies authorized by the Government of Saudi Arabia for  the  purpose.
We are informed that as of today there are some 48 such  agencies  in  Saudi
Arabia.  We are informed at the bar  by  the  learned  Additional  Solicitor
General that existence of such a restriction emanates from the law of  Saudi
Arabia and the Government of India’s knowledge of such restriction is  based
on the information provided by the Diplomatic Mission of the  Government  of
India at Saudi Arabia.

6.    There are three annexures to the above scheme.   Annexure-A  specifies
the conditions required  to  be  satisfied  by  a  PTO  and  prescribes  the
documents  which  are  required  to  be  produced  to  establish  the  facts
necessary to prove that the PTO satisfies the  conditions  for  registration
of Private Tour Operators (PTO) for Haj 2013[2].

7.    For the purpose of the present  controversy,  we  are  concerned  with
only stipulations (iv)  and (vii) which read as follows:-

“(iv) Minimum annual turnover of INR one crore  during  the  financial  year
2010-2011 or 2011-2012 along with balance sheet and profit and loss  account
– duly audited by the statutory auditors, tax audit report  and  income  tax
return (ITR) for financial years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

(vii)  Proof of payment made through banking or  other  authorised  channels
towards purchase of tickets and hiring of accommodation  in  Makkah/Madinah.
 Payments towards purchase of tickets, hiring of accommodation for  pilgrims
in Makkah/Madinah, by any other means, would not be accepted.”

8.    This batch of writ petitions are filed  by  the  PTOs  falling  either
under Category-I or one of the two classes of Category-II.   We  take  three
writ petitions as  representative  cases  of  the  entire  batch  i.e.  Writ
Petition (C) No. 425 of 2016, Writ Petition (C) No. 441  of  2016  and  Writ
Petition (C) No. 501 of 2016.

9.    The petitioner in Writ Petition (C) No. 425 of 2016  claims  to  be  a
PTO who is duly registered with the Ministry of  External  Affairs  and  was
allotted a quota of Hajis for the years 2009 to 2011 and also  in  the  year
2015 (in all, four years).

10.   The petitioner in Writ Petition(C) No. 441 of 2016  claims  to  be  “a
registered PTO since 2003 to 2012 and also for the year  2015”,  but  it  is
not very clear from the writ petition whether petitioner  was  allotted  any
quota in any one of those years, except a vague statement  at  para  4.24[3]
of the writ petition.

11.    Coming  to  Writ  Petition  (C)  No.  501  of  2016,  the  petitioner
apparently belongs to the Class II of  the  Category-II  i.e.  somebody  who
claims experience of having conducted umrah programme  for  five  years  and
seeks registration for conducting Haj programme for the year 2016.

12.   The prayers in  these  three  writ  petitions,  insofar  as  they  are
relevant, read as follows:-

Prayer in Writ Petition (C) No. 425 of 2016

“(a)    Issue  a  Writ,  order  or  direction  in  the  nature  of  Mandamus
Commanding and directing  the  Respondents  restore  paragraph  1  of  Press
Release dated 06.05.2016 by withdrawing second  para  of  para  2  of  Press
Release dated 21.05.2016;

(b)     Issue  a  Writ,  order  or  direction  in  the  nature  of  Mandamus
Commanding and  directing  the  Respondents  to  exempt  the  Petitioner  to
furnish documents  required  under  clause  (vii),  (x),  (xi)  &  (xii)  of
Annexure A of the PTO Policy for Haj-2013 and Haj-2014.”

Prayer in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 441 of 2016

Issue a Writ, order or direction in the nature of  Mandamus  Commanding  and
directing the respondent to grant Registration to the petitioner as PTO  for
conducting Haj Tour, 2016;”

      And insofar as, the third Writ Petition i.e.  Writ  Petition  (C)  No.
501 of 2016 is concerned, the relevant prayers  are  prayers  (a),  (b)  and
(c).    Prayers (a) and (b) are similar prayers to the prayer  in  the  Writ
Petition (C) No. 425 of 2016, and prayer (c) is as follows:-

“(c)  Issue a Writ, direction or order in the nature of Mandamus  commanding
and directing the  Respondent  not  to  seek  copy  of  contract  which  the
Respondent has sought vide paragraph 4 of press  release  dated  06.05.2016,
as per Annexure P-2”

13.   The background in which the present litigation arises is as follows:

      The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued  a  clarification  dated
8th May 2013 by which  a  PTO  seeking  registration  for  consideration  of
allotment of quota for Haj programme is required to furnish documents;

“As regards Clause (vii) of Annexure A  to  PTO  Haj  Policy,  2013,  it  is
clarified that the PTOs will have to submit  the  documents  required  under
Clause (vii) of Annexure A to PTO Haj Policy, 2013 for a period of at  least
three years.”

Some of the PTOs challenged the said document on  the  ground  that  such  a
clarification was unwarranted and does not find any support  from  the  text
of stipulation no. (vii). Their case is  that  in  view  of  the  fact  that
stipulation no. (iv) of Annexure ‘A’  prescribes  a  condition  that  a  PTO
seeking registration should have a minimum annual  turnover  of  Rs.1  crore
“during the financial year 2010-2011 or 2011-12” and calls upon the PTOs  to
submit balance sheet and profit and loss  account  duly  audited  and  other
documents specified therein for  the  abovementioned  two  financial  years,
stipulation no. (vii) also must be understood in the  light  of  stipulation
no.(iv), and resultantly, the PTO is  obligated  to  furnish  the  documents
referred to therein only for 2 years.   This Court accepted  the  submission
of the petitioner in  Jeddah  Travels  &  Jeddah  Hajj  Group  v.  Union  of
India[4] and directed that the case  of  the  petitioner  be  considered  in
accordance with the decision of this Court.

Thereafter, a number of press releases came to  be  issued,  significant  of
them are on 29.04.2016[5], 21.05.2015[6], 06.05.2016 and 21.05.2016.

  MEA issued another Press Release dated 21.05.2015.  From  the  said  Press
Note, it appears that number of PTOs who approached this  Court  challenging
the MEA’s clarification dated 08.03.2013  was  22.   Further,  in  purported
compliance with  the  direction  of  this  Court  given  in  Jeddah  Travels
(supra), Government examined and found 73 more  PTOs  (20  under  Category-I
and 53 under Category-II) to have been qualified for  registration  for  Haj
2015, apart from various other PTOs who had otherwise been found  qualified.
 It appears from the said Press Note that a total number of  615  PTOs  (253
under Category-I  and  362  under  Category-II)  were  found  to  have  been
qualified for registration for Haj 2015.  It is stated  in  the  said  Press
Note as follows:

“9. This policy will  remain  valid  from  2015  to  2017  for  registration
purpose for the new private tour operators who wish to  be  registered  with
the Ministry on the basis of Umrah pilgrims taken by  them  as  per  details
mentioned in Para 6 above. The policy will not be changed unless  there  are
substantive  developments  which  affect  it.  The  policy  envisages  cross
category  upward  movement  of  PTOs  from  Category-II  to  Category-I.   A
qualified PTO shall remain qualified for registration purpose till  Haj-2017
unless it is otherwise disqualified either by  Government  of  India  or  by
Government of Saudi Arabia for valid reasons. The  allocation  of  seats  to
the PTOs qualified for registration in each category,  will  be  done  every
year on the basis of the overall quota of seats for PTOs  specified  in  the
Annual  India-Saudi  Arabia  Bilateral  Haj  Agreement  and  the  number  of
qualified PTOs in each category.”

17.   This Court passed an  Order  dated  18.05.2016  in  a  batch  of  writ
petitions similar to the ones on hand, the operative portion of which  reads
as follows:-

“8)   In  the  light  of  aforesaid  discussion  and  keeping  in  view  the
statement made  by  the  Additional  Solicitor  General  on  behalf  of  the
respondent-Union of India, we dispose of these  writ  petitions  finally  by
granting liberty to each writ petitioner to make a  fresh  application  with
all the necessary details with the documents  as  prescribed  for  grant  of
permission to take the pilgrims for Hajj for the  year  2016  on  or  before
27.05.2016 to the prescribed authority.

9) On such  application  (s)  being  made,  the  concerned  authority  would
examine, consider and decide each such application on its merit strictly  in
accordance with law and keeping in view the law laid down in  the  decisions
of this Court in Union of India & Ors. vs. Rafique  Shaikh  Bhikan  &  Ors.,
2013 (4) SCC 699, Order dated 07.08.2014 passed in  Special  Leave  Petition
(C) No. 20743/2014 entitled Union of India & Ors. vs. All  India  Haj  Umrah
Tour Organizers Association & Ors., Order dated 07.08.2014  passed  in  Writ
Petition (civil) No. 480/2014 etc. etc. entitled  Jeddah  Travels  &  Jeddah
Hajj Group vs. Union of India, Order dated 12.05.2015 passed in I.A. No.  33
of 2015 in Special Leave Petition  (C)  No.  28609/2011  entitled  Union  of
India vs. Rafique Sheikh Bhikan and Others and  Order  dated  23.07.2015  in
W.P. (civil) No. 344/2015 entitled Alban Hajj Umrah  Service  vs.  Union  of

10) Let the applications be decided by the concerned authority by passing  a
reasoned order on each application on or before 29.06.2016 and the order  so
passed be communicated to each applicant (writ petitioner) immediately.”

18.   We are of the opinion that it is not necessary to  examine  in  detail
the content of these various press releases issued by the  MEA.   They  only
indicate the Government of India’s understanding of the APPROVED POLICY  (as
interpreted by orders of this  Court  in  Jeddah  Travels  (supra)).   These
press notes are professedly  meant  to  be  clarificatory  of  the  APPROVED
POLICY.   But  they  created  more  confusion  than  really  clarifying  the

19.   The net result emerging from these various Press Notes and the  orders
of this Court is that as a matter of fact some of the  PTOs  (falling  under
either category I or II) who should have been registered by the Ministry  of
External Affairs for consideration of  their  cases  for  allotment  of  Haj
quota for the year 2014 were wrongly  denied  registration  and,  therefore,
they were not allotted any quota in that year.

20.   The ultimate question in this batch of  matters  is  –  what  are  the
documents which are required to be  submitted  for  registration  as  a  PTO
qualified for being considered for allotment of quota for Haj 2016?

21.   There is no dispute between the parties regarding the obligation of  a
PTO to furnish various documents referred  to  in  various  stipulations  of
Annexure ‘A’ of the APPROVED POLICY. The dispute revolves  only  around  the
stipulation (vii).  It is the common  understanding  of  the  Government  of
India and Petitioners/PTOs insofar as stipulation  no.  (iv)  is  concerned,
though the text of the stipulation speaks about submission of balance  sheet
and profit and loss account for the  years  2010-2011  and  2011-2012,  that
stipulation is to be understood as the balance sheet  and  profit  and  loss
account pertaining to the years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 for the  purpose  of
registration for the HAJ 2016.

22.   On the only contentious stipulation that  is  stipulation  no.  (vii),
according to the Government of India, when the APPROVED  POLICY  imposes  an
obligation on a PTO seeking registration to produce proof  of  the  payments
(made through banking or other  authorized  channels)  towards  purchase  of
tickets and hiring of accommodation in  Makkah/Madinah,  obviously  such  an
obligation is with reference to the two years preceding HAJ 2016 in view  of
the orders of this Court in Jeddah Travels (supra).

23.   The learned Addtl. Solicitor General submitted that they are not  only
bound by the orders of this Court in Rafique  Shaikh  Bhikan,  2013  (supra)
and Jeddah Travels (supra) but also are under a constitutional  duty  to  be
satisfied that an applicant (PTO for registration for  Haj  2016  programme)
has the necessary ability and capacity (financial  and  infrastructural)  to
conduct such a programme because the safety and comfort of the Haj  pilgrims
eventually depends upon the ability and the capacity of  the  PTOs.   It  is
submitted that some of the PTOs did not  in  the  past  really  provide  the
necessary services which they ought to have provided to the pilgrims.   Past
performance of the PTOs is one of the factors by  which  the  Government  of
India makes an assessment of the capacity of the  PTOs  under  the  APPROVED
POLICY.  The past performance of a PTO is to be assessed  on  the  basis  of
the documentary evidence indicated in stipulation no. (vii).  Such  evidence
proves the facts that PTOs after having secured the allotment of  quota  did
in fact conduct Haj programme by actually purchasing tickets  and  providing
appropriate accommodation for the pilgrims in  Makkah/Madinah.    Therefore,
any PTO seeking consideration for allotment of a quota  for  Haj  2016  must
necessarily supply the documents for the years of 2014 and 2015 Haj.

24.   On the other hand, the learned  counsel  for  the  petitioners  argued
that some of the petitioners who were otherwise eligible  to  be  considered
for allotment of quota for Haj 2014 were  wrongly  denied  registration  and
consequently they did not get any quota. Therefore,  calling  upon  them  to
produce proof of the fact that they had  made  appropriate  arrangement  for
that particular year is not only illogical  but  would  be  asking  them  to
perform an impossibility,  apart from being an arbitrary exercise of  power.
 Therefore, their cases  must  be  considered  without  insisting  upon  the
documents for the years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

25.   In our opinion, stipulation no. (vii) does not  impose  a  substantive
obligation on a PTO seeking consideration for  allotment  of  quota  by  the
Government of India for Haj programme  of  any  particular  year.   It  only
incorporates a rule of evidence to establish the fact whether  a  particular
PTO had in fact conducted Haj programme in the past.

26.   PTOs had been in existence and conducting Haj operations  without  any
intervention by the Government of  India  even  prior  to  the  coming  into
existence of the APPROVED POLICY under the orders of this Court  in  Rafique
Shaikh Bhikan, 2013 (supra).  It is a different matter as to how  well  they
had  conducted  the  Haj  programmes.   Sometime  in  2002[7],   after   the
Government of Saudi Arabia decided that only those PTOs which  are  approved
by the Government of India could be  given  ‘Group  Visas’  to  perform  Haj
operations, this whole  process  of  the  Government  of  India  considering
allotment of quota to  PTOs  started  because  the  Government  is  under  a
constitutional obligation to consider the cases of  all  the  eligible  PTOs
without discrimination.

27.    To  decide  upon  the  eligibility  of  PTOs,  certain  criteria  was
required.  Therefore, the APPROVED POLICY stipulated  that  those  PTOs  who
had conducted at least 7 Haj operations  or  more  would  be  considered  in
Category-I and PTOs who had conducted less than 7 Haj  operations  would  be
treated as Category-II PTOs.  The consequence of the division of  PTOs  into
two categories is that the total number of  Visas  to  be  provided  by  the
Government of Saudi Arabia for the pilgrims  going  through  PTOs  would  be
distributed among the two categories in the ratio indicated in para 4  which
is already taken note of.  PTOs which had conducted greater  number  of  Haj
programmes would get a larger  chunk  of  visas.   To  determine  whether  a
particular PTO falls either under Category-I or Category-II,  some  evidence
to establish the number of tours conducted  by  such  a  PTO  prior  to  the
formation of the scheme is required.  The best proof, as rightly  identified
by the Government (in  stipulation  no.  (vii)  of  Annexure  ‘A’),  is  the
evidence of payments  for  the  air  tickets  and  hiring  of  accommodation
through banking or other authorized channels

28.   We must note it here that  stipulation  (vii)  is  relevant  only  for
those PTOs,  who  are  seeking  registration  either  under  Category  I  or
Category II as PTOs eligible for consideration for allotment of  quotas  for
Haj Programme for the first time.  When an application is received from  any
PTO for the first time, as was rightly contended by the  learned  Additional
Solicitor General before this Court  in  the  Jeddah  Travels  (supra),  the
proof  by  documents  specified  in  stipulation   (vii)   is   required[8].
Unfortunately, the said  submission  was  rejected  by  this  Court.    With
respect we may say that we are unable to agree with the conclusion  of  this
Court in Jeddah Travels (supra) in this regard.

29.   Be that as it may,  but  once  the  PTO  is  registered  either  under
Category I or Category II insisting upon the PTO to produce proof  for  each
subsequent year or  to  produce  documents  contemplated  under  stipulation
(vii) in our opinion is not supported either by the  text  of  the  APPROVED
POLICY or logic.

30.   The scheme was not confined only to Haj 2013 and made applicable  till
2017 (by orders of this Court).  There is always a possibility of  some  new
PTOs who were qualified to fall under  Category-II  in  2013  to  acquire  a
qualification to fall in Category-I in a subsequent year.   For  example,  a
PTO who successfully conducted 6 Haj operations prior  to  2013  would  fall
under Category-II for the purpose of allotment of quota in Haj 2013.  If  it
did in fact secure a quota  for  Haj  2013  and  did  in  fact  conduct  Haj
operations for 2013 successfully, for a Haj  operation  for  any  subsequent
year during the currency of the APPROVED POLICY a PTO would be  entitled  to
be considered as a Category-I  PTO  as  by  then  it  had  conducted  7  Haj
operations.  Similarly, the PTOs who facilitated  50  umrah  pilgrims  in  a
year for  any  five  years  prior  to  2013  would  be  eligible  for  being
considered in Category-II and for allotment of quota of Haj 2013 and  if  it
is successful in securing the quota and in  conducting  Haj  operations,  in
any subsequent years, it would be entitled to be considered for quota  under
Class-I of Category-II as a PTO who has conducted one Haj operation.

31.   We have already noticed the relevant portion of  the  APPROVED  POLICY
which dealt with the categorization of the PTOs.  The  APPROVED  POLICY  did
not stipulate  a  condition  that  experience  of  having  conducted  7  Haj
programmes is an experience of 7 consecutive years  etc.   Therefore,  if  a
PTO is once registered in any one of the years, either as  a  Category-I  or
Category-II  PTO,  to  call  upon  such  PTOs  to  furnish   the   documents
contemplated under stipulation no. (vii) for every subsequent year,  in  our
opinion, would not be in tune with the text of the APPROVED POLICY.  We  are
conscious of the fact that some  PTOs  who  had  successfully  undertaken  a
number of Haj programmes may subsequently derelict their  responsibility  to
the pilgrims.  The Government of India has ample power  under  the  APPROVED
POLICY to deregister such PTOs.   This aspect is amply born out of the  text
of the policy itself.  Para 5 of the Policy insofar as it is relevant  reads
as follows:

“5.   … The policy envisages cross-category upward  movement  of  PTOs  from
Category II to Category I. A qualified PTO shall remain qualified unless  it
is otherwise disqualified either by  the  Government  of  India  or  by  the
Government of Saudi Arabia for valid reasons. It is to  be  noted  that  the
PTOs who do not wish to take a minimum of 150 Hajis or are unable to do  so,
need not apply.”

32.   Therefore, in our opinion, understanding of the  Government  of  India
that even those PTOs  who  had  been  registered  either  in  Category-I  or
Category-II would also be required to furnish  the  documents  specified  in
stipulation no. (vii) every year when they  are  seeking  consideration  for
allotment of quota of Haj pilgrims is wholly illogical and contrary  to  the
text of the APPROVED POLICY.  A registration for PTO  once  made  under  the
scheme should be valid till 2017, subject to fulfillment of  other  relevant
stipulations under the scheme.
33.   Ultimately, documents specified in stipulation (vii) not  only  go  to
prove a fact that a  PTO  had  in  fact  conducted  a  Haj  programme  in  a
particular year, but also prove that the PTO has necessary  information  and
contacts in Saudi Arabia to organize an appropriate  accommodation  both  at

34.   Another submission of the  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General  is
required to be examined at this stage.    The  submission  is  that  in  the
absence of such documents for the minimum two preceding  years  relevant  to
the Haj programme in consideration the Government would  have  no  means  of
assessing the continued ability and capacity of the PTO to undertake  a  Haj
operation and therefore, the Government should be permitted to  insist  upon
the production of such documents.

35.   This argument is to be rejected for one reason under para 4(b) of  the
APPROVED POLICY, it is stipulated that “a qualified PTO which fails  to  get
selected under the draw of lots in any year will be allocated 150  seats  in
the ensuing year without umrah, if it remains a  qualified  PTO”,  obviously
such a PTO would not be able to produce such  documents  with  reference  to
that year when it failed to secure allotment of quota for Haj.    Therefore,
the assessment of its ability on the basis of its previous year  performance
as is sought to be argued by the learned  Additional  Solicitor  General  is
not possible in such cases.   Still the  Government  is  obliged  under  the
APPROVED POLICY to grant a quota to such PTOs.

36.   Lastly, it is argued  by  the  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
based on the decision of this Court in Union of India and  Others  etc.   v.
Rafique Shaikh Bhikan and Another etc.  (2012) 6 SCC 265,  that  this  Court
may  not  interfere  with  the  policy  of  the  Government  unless  it   is
demonstrated before us that  “the  condition(s)  was  purely  subjective  or
designed to exclude any individual  or  group  of  private  operators/travel
agents i.e. bordering on malice.”

37.   We reject the submission as the statement relied upon by  the  learned
Additional Solicitor General is not an exhaustive statement of  law  on  the
subject, when it is demonstrated  that  the  administrative  action  of  the
Government of India is inconsistent with  the  text  of  the  law  (APPROVED
POLICY in this  case)  or  that  the  government  is  making  an  irrational
application of the law, this Court is bound to interfere.

38.   It is submitted by the learned ASG that  the  prime  consideration  in
this matter should not be the individual rights of  these  PTOs  whose  only
motive is to secure economic benefits from the allotment of Haj  quota,  but
the safety and comfort of the Haj pilgrims. Government of  India  must  have
the necessary freedom to make its own assessment regarding  the  suitability
of the PTO in this regard. We do not dispute the proposition,  the  text  of
the scheme itself makes it abundantly clear  that  any  PTO  once  qualified
shall “remain  qualified  unless  it  is  otherwise  disqualified….  by  the
Government of India… for valid reasons.” Therefore, it  is  always  open  to
the Government to disqualify any registered  PTO  for  subsequent  year,  if
there is rational complaint against the service rendered by that PTO in  any
previous year from any one of  the  pilgrims  of  that  year  or  any  other
legally tenable information or material which calls for disqualification  of
such a PTO.

39.   We are left with the writ petitions of  those  PTOs  who  are  seeking
consideration for allotment of quota for haj 2016 in the  category-II  Class
I.  Their claim is that earlier that is in 2015 for the year 2015 they  were
allotted a quota on the ground that they were PTOs  falling  under  Class-II
of Category-II, i.e. PTOs which had the experience of having conducted  five
(5) umrah operations  prior  to  2015.   The  learned  Additional  Solicitor
General submitted  that  under  the  laws  of  Saudi  Arabia  PTOs  are  not
permitted to conduct umrah operations unless  they  have  a  clear  contract
with one of the agencies duly authorised by Government of Saudi  Arabia  for
the purpose of conducting umrah operations and some of these  PTOs  did  not
have any such contract.  According to the learned ASG  the  petitioner  PTOs
were only sub-contractors under some PTOs which were already  classified  as
PTOs falling under Category-I or Class-I of Category-II. They did  not  have
any independent contract for conducting umrah operations, however,  by  some
oversight some of them had been granted registration and quota under  Class-
I of Category-II for the year 2015.  The learned ASG submitted that it  does
not create any right in favour of such PTOs.

40.   Whatever be the basis on which quota was allotted to  these  PTOs  for
haj 2015, the fact remains that  if  anyone  of  those  PTOs  did  in  fact,
conduct a haj programme pursuant to the quota they  would  be  entitled  for
being considered even for 2016 unless there is any  other  good  ground  for
not considering their cases such as inefficient or bad service  rendered  to
the pilgrimage during  2015  haj  programme,  their  claims  now  cannot  be
rejected.  If the respondent decides to de-register such PTOs on any  ground
tenable in law, it is open for the respondent to  de-register  after  giving
reasonable opportunity to such PTOs but  until  such  de-registration  takes
place  their cases must be considered for allotment of quota  for  haj  2016
if they are otherwise eligible.

41.   It is a settled principle  of  international  law  that  a  law  of  a
foreign country is a pure question of fact insofar as municipal  courts  are
concerned, we do not see any reason to doubt the statement,  the  Government
of India  and therefore, we do not see any reason to grant  any  relief  for
those PTOs.

42.   All these writ petitions are disposed of directing the respondents  to
consider the cases of all the PTOs for allotment of quota in  the  light  of
these orders insofar  as  stipulation  (vii)  of  Annexure  A  is  concerned
subject to the fact that PTOs are otherwise eligible in accordance with  the
approved scheme.

Writ Petition(C)No.559/2016

      Taken on board.

      In view of the order passed  in  W.P.(C)No.425/2016  ,  this  petition
also stands disposed of.

                                                      (J. Chelameswar)

                                              (Abhay Manohar Sapre)
New Delhi;
July 8, 2016
[1]      Para  27.  Having  heard  the  Attorney  General  and  the  counsel
appearing for the different private tour operators, we  approve  the  policy
presented by the Attorney  General  with  some  slight  modifications.   The
policy, approved after modifications by this Court, is enclosed as  Appendix
I and forms part of this order.  The approved policy will be called  “Policy
for Private Tour Operators for Haj, 2013-2017”.  It shall remain  valid  for
five years and shall not be questioned before any court or authority.

[2]    Each PTO should establish that it is a genuine and  established  tour
operator having experience in sending tourists/pilgrims abroad for which  he
should produce the following documents

[3]    4.24 - That on  1.08.2015,  the  respondent  after  scrutinizing  the
application submitted by the petitioner selected the  petitioner  as  a  PTO
for  Hajj  2015  and  the  “Certificate  of  Registration  of  Private  Tour
Operators for Hajj 2015” was issued by the  respondent  to  the  petitioner.
The petitioner conducted service for hajj 2015 without any complaint.

[4]     (2014) 14 SCC 378 Para 8 (Hereinafter, Jeddah Travels).
       “8.  Clause  (vii)  of  Annexure  A  referred  to  above  not  having
stipulated any period of time  during  which  the  requirement  contemplated
thereunder is required to be  satisfied  by  a  private  tour  operator  and
Clause (iv) which relates to the turnover of a tour operator being  confined
to a period of one year out of the two available  calendar  years  mentioned
thereunder and both the clauses being relatable to a  determination  of  the
suitability of a tour operator from a similar perspective,  the  requirement
under Clause (vii) can be reasonably understood in  the  light  of  what  is
contained in Clause  (iv)  i.e.  Financial  Years  2010-2011  or  2011-2012.
Admittedly, the private tour operators before us have been  disqualified  by
taking into account periods of time other  than  what  is  mentioned  above.
That apart, if the Government of India was of the  view  that  Clause  (vii)
had to be understood with reference to a  period  of  three  years,  really,
this Court ought to have been approached for an appropriate clarification.”

[5]    2. The lists of the PTOs under category I &  II  who  were  qualified
for Haj-2015 may be seen at Annexure I, II & III of the  Press  Releases  of
31.7.2015 and 7.8.2015 available at the  Ministry’s  Website
(Link: Haj 2015- (i) Press Release for PTOs for Haj  2015  dated  31.7.2015,
(ii) List of PTOs qualified for allocation  of  quota  for  Haj  2015  dated
31.7.2015 and (iii) List of qualified PTOs who did not  get  quota  for  Haj
2015 due to draw  of  lots  dated  7.8.2015).  The  PTOs  who  still  remain
eligible as per this list may apply for registration for  Haj  2016  as  per
the laid down guidelines Further, in compliance  of  Hon’ble  Supreme  Court
order on the Writ Petition No.344/2015  dated  23.7.2015,  19  PTOs  as  per
enclosed list at Annexure-X may also apply for  registration  following  the
laid  down  guidelines.   These   lists   are   subject   to   any   further
order/directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.

             3. All the terms and conditions laid down in  Annexure  A  &  B
will also apply  on  PTOs  that  qualify  under  Category-II  by  virtue  of
facilitating a minimum of 50 Umrah pilgrims in a year for any 5  years,  but
with the exception of  the  terms  and  conditions  contained  under  Clause
(vii), (x), (xi) and (xii) of Annexure A. In addition, these PTOs  are  also
required to submit the proof of payment made through banking  or  any  other
authorised channels towards purchase of tickets and hiring of  accommodation
in Makkah and Madinah in respect of Umrah pilgrims facilitated  by  them  in
support of their claim.

[6]    Para 2. The PTOs who have been qualified for  registration  for  Haj-
2015, is enclosed at Annex- A.

      Para 3. In addition, the Hon?ble  Supreme  Court,  vide  its  judgment
dated 7th August, 2014 in the writ petitions filed by 22 PTOs, has  directed
the Ministry that Clause (vii) of Annexure A of the PTOs  Policy  should  be
read with Clause (iv). The Hon?ble Court directed the Ministry to  do  self-
correction in this regard. Therefore, the  documents  of  the  non-qualified
PTOs for minimum annual turnover of Rs.1 Crore or above and purchase of  air
tickets and hiring of accommodation for  Haj  pilgrims  through  banking  or
other authorised channels for the year 2010-11 (Haj 2010)  or  2011-12  (Haj
2011) needed to be re-verified, in addition to other documents as  indicated
in Annexure A and B of the PTOs Policy.

      Para 4. In order to comply  the  directions  of  the  Hon?ble  Supreme
Court, the documents of those PTOs who were given opportunity  for  personal
hearing but were  not  considered  qualified  during  2013,  have  been  re-
verified with the assistance of the  Chartered  Accountant  Firm,  M/S  S.P.
Chopra & Co, hired  through  bidding  process.  The  documents  like  Annual
Turnover of Rs. 1 crore  or  more,  Minimum  Capital  of  Rs.  15  Lakh  and
documents regarding transaction through proper banking channel for  purchase
of air tickets for the Haj pilgrims and hiring of accommodation for them  in
Makkah/Madinah pertaining to the  year  2010-11(Haj-2010)  or  2011-12  (Haj
2011) of the PTOs were verified.  As  a  result,  73  more  PTOs  (20  under
Category-I and 53 under Category-II) have been  qualified  for  registration
for Haj 2015. A list of  the  PTOs  qualified  for  registration  after  re-
verification of the documents is enclosed at Annexure B. Thus,  a  total  of
615 PTOs  (253  under  Category-I  and  362  under  Category-II)  have  been
qualified for registration for Haj 2015.”

[7]    Union of India and Others etc.  v. Rafique Shaikh Bhikan and  Another
etc.  (2012) 6 SCC 265. In this judgment, the following  paragraphs  are  to
be noted-

      In order to clearly  understand  the  context  in  which  the  dispute
arises a few facts  are  required  to  be  taken  into  account.    Under  a
bilateral agreement signed between the Government of India and  the  Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia every year, the latter Government assigns a fixed number  of
pilgrims that are permitted to visit Saudi Arabia for performing  Haj.   Out
of the overall number, a relatively small portion is specified for the  PTOs
and the rest for the Haj Committee of India.

      Before 2002, the  PTOs  were  allocated  Haj  seats  directly  by  the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and there was,  therefore,  no  involvement  of  the
Government of India in the allocation of any Haj quota to the  PTOs.   After
Haj 2001, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made it  mandatory  for  the  PTOs  to
come through  their  respective  Governments.   From  2002,  therefore,  the
Government of India was obliged to  evolve  a  system  under  which  private
operators/travel agents would  be  registered  as  PTOs  and  following  the
registration would be allocated quotas from the overall number  of  pilgrims
specified  for  PTOs.    It  is,  thus,  to   be   seen   that   a   private
operator/travel agent needs first to get registered  as  PTO  and  it  would
then get a fixed number of pilgrims for carrying for Haj.

[8]    6.  Shri Neeraj Kishan Kaul,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
has vehemently contended that the requirement under the order of  the  Court
dated 16-4-2013 [F/N : Union of India v. Rafique Shaikh Bhikan (2013) 4  SCC
699],  is really for a seven year period, which is evident  from  a  reading
of Appendix I, which is to be found in para 36 of  the  aforesaid  order  of
this Court.


No comments:

Post a Comment