The Supreme Court today declined to entertain the Centre’s request to defer till next year its July 23 order limiting the government’s discretionary quota for Haj pilgrims.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai refused to accede to the government plea put forward by Attorney General G E Vahanvati and counsel Harish Beran to defer its order till next year.
Vahanvati made the submission at the fag end of the hearing of a bunch of petitions by private tour operators (PTOs),who have challenged certain norms fixed by the government for the operators.
On July 23,the apex court had drastically reduced the government’s discretionary and dignitaries’ quota seats for Haj 2012 pilgrims to 300 from 5,050 seats and had hoped they would be allotted on “reasonable basis”.
Earlier during today’s hearing,the bench maintained that there could be no monopolisation and asked the Centre to frame a fresh PTOs policy for the annual Haj pilgrimage from next year onwards.
The court asked the AG to come out with a new policy for permitting fresh players in private transport sector.
“We know that the present policy is not perfect. But we do not want to interfere with this years policy,” Justice Alam observed.
The bench,however,said there was a lot of scope for improvement in the government’s present policy by taking into consideration the suggestions and complaints made by various tour operators who have been knocked out of the business on account of certain norms prescribed by the government.
As per the government norms,only those PTOs who had an annual turnover of Rs one crore for the year 2009 and 2010 were eligible for ferrying pilgrims.
Agreeing that the present policy was not fair,the apex court asked the AG to come out with a new policy next year to facilitate “fresh players”.
“It shall not be the monopoly of a few operators. We hope that the next Haj policy will be framed keeping in view the concerns of this court,” the bench observed.
The apex court said it will take up for consideration next year’s Haj policy for private tour operators in November.
The apex court had on July 23 limited the number of seats to be allocated under dignitaries’ quota by the President to 100,the Vice President to 75,the Prime Minister to 75 and the External Affairs Minister to 50.
The bench had said 200 seats would be reserved for the Haj Committee of India (HCOI) as against the proposed 500.
After limiting the seats under dignitaries quota and the HCOI,the bench had said that remaining seats would go to the Haj committees of various states and union territories.