Compensate Haj operators for wrongly disqualifying them: SC to Govt
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to pay Rs five lakh each to seven Haj tour operators as compensation for disqualifying them in 2016 for non-compliance of the clauses for which they were exempted.
A bench comprising justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed the action of Ministry of External Affairs as “mindless action” and said that the arbitrariness and illegality of the authority was writ large.
“The petitioners (tour operators) have been deprived of their right to secure the quota on a patently wrongful order passed for reasons, which did not apply to them and for conditions, which had been specifically exempted.
“What could be a greater arbitrariness and illegality? Where there is such patent arbitrariness and illegality, there is consequent violation of the principles enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution,” the bench said.
According to the tour operators, they were in 2013 exempted for five years from filing proof of payment towards purchase of tickets, hiring of accommodation for pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia.
Some of the private tour operators (PTOs) were also given relaxation in terms and condition by not furnishing copies of their registration certificates and contract for hiring of buildings for pilgrims, it said, adding that the ministry, however, disqualified them for not furnishing these documents for which they were exempted.
The bench, in its order, said, “The mindless action of the respondents (Centre) in rejecting the eligibility of the petitioners for the year 2016 on the very grounds on which they were exempted, necessitates that the petitioners should be entitled to damages in public law so that they are compensated, at least, to some extent for not having been able to carry on with their business on account of illegal action of the respondents.”
The court noted that the communication sent by the Centre shows that the reason cited for disqualification was non-compliance of the very clauses of which exemption had been granted to the operators.
The bench rejected the Centre’s plea that the reasons were wrongly communicated in the rejection letter and that there was some other reasons for the denial.