Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 28609/2011, T.C. (C) Nos. 90, 91, 92, 93 and 94 of 2012 and W.P. (C) Nos. 330 and 336 of 2012. Case: Union of India (UOI) and Ors. Vs Rafique Shaikh Bhikan and Ors.. Supreme Court

Case Number:Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 28609/2011, T.C. (C) Nos. 90, 91, 92, 93 and 94 of 2012 and W.P. (C) Nos. 330 and 336 of 2012
Party Name:Union of India (UOI) and Ors. Vs Rafique Shaikh Bhikan and Ors.
Counsel:For Appellant: Goolam E. Vahanvati, A.G., Huzefa Ahmadi, Indu Malhotra, Rajeev Dhawan, R. Venkataramani, Colin Gonsalves, Dushyant Dave, Sr. Advs., Ejaz Maqbool, Mrigank Prabhakar, Rohan Sharma, Haris Beeran, Mohd. Nizamuddin Pasha, Amer Musthaq Salim, B.K. Prasad, Tarique Siddiqui, Anas Tanvir Siddiqui, Irshad Hanif, Rajshekhar Rao, Chandra ...
Judges:Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai, JJ.
Issue:Constitution of India - Articles 14, 25
Citation:2013 (4) ABR 158, 2013 (XI) AD (SC) 320, 2013 (3) CHN 152, JT 2013 (7) SC 107, 2013 (5) MLJ 209, 2013 (2) RCR 910 (Civil), 2013 (6) SCALE 22, 2013 (4) SCC 699, 2013 (4) WBLR (SC) 798
Judgement Date:April 16, 2013
Court:Supreme Court
 
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Judgment:

Aftab Alam, J.

  1. This special leave petition was filed by the Union of India against the judgment and order passed by the Bombay High Court by which the Government was directed to release 800 seats from the Government quota in favour of the writ Petitioners (a group of private tour operators) under the Government's PTO Policy for hajj 2011. Though the special leave petition was on a very limited issue, this Court by order dated February 17, 2012 decided to treat the case as a public interest litigation and to examine some of the major issues concerning the Hajj Policy of the Government of India.

  2. In the past two years this Court has passed orders on a number of issues concerning the Government Hajj Policy. By order dated May 8, 2012, the Court dealt with the issues of Hajj Subsidy and the Goodwill Hajj Delegation and passed necessary directions in that regard. The directions on those issues are reiterated and confirmed and directed to be followed strictly.

  3. By the same order, the Court also approved the Government's PTO Policy for Hajj 2012.

  4. By order dated July 23, 2012, the Court dealt with the quota of pilgrims that the Central Government kept reserved for allotment at its discretion and made directions in that regard. Those directions too are reiterated, confirmed and directed to be followed strictly.

  5. By order dated July 27, 2012, the Court pointed out to the Attorney General that the PTO Policy for hajj 2012 did not allow the entry of anyone without past experience and asked him to ensure that future PTO policies should have sufficient room for the entry of fresh PTOs every year.

  6. We now propose to deal with some other important issues in the Hajj Policy of the Government of India.

  7. Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi, senior advocate, who was appointed as Amicus Curiae by order dated July 23, 2012, has painstakingly collected detailed information from the Haj Committee of India and the Haj Committees of different States. After scrutinizing the collected information with discernment he presented for consideration the following issues that need to be addressed by the Court:

    i) Policy for Haj Committee of India Pilgrims.

    ii) Time bound conduct of hajj process.

    iii) Accommodation in Saudi Arabia.

    iv) Air Fare

    v) Grievance redressal

    vi) Policy for Private Tour Operators.

    We propose to take up all the issues in seriatim.

    i) Policy for Haj Committee of India Pilgrims.

  8. This relates to the policy in regard to pilgrims going for hajj through the Haj Committee of India (in distinction to those going through private tour operators). We accept the suggestion of the Amicus and hold that the practice of framing Hajj Policy on an annual basis is quite ad-hoc and unsatisfactory and must be replaced by a policy framework made for a period of five years. We, accordingly, direct that the Hajj Policy that is to be framed this year would be for a period of five years and would be called the Hajj Policy 2013-2017. The proposed Hajj Policy will be posted on the website of the MEA inviting objections, comments and suggestions within one month from the date it is made available on the website. The policy would be given the final shape after taking into account any objections, comments or suggestions that may be worthy of acceptance within a further period of one month. The final policy so framed shall remain valid and operative for a period of five years upto hajj 2017 and may be amended only in case of any change in the arrangements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as per the agreement entered into between the two countries every year. The next five year policy will be similarly framed, keeping in view any problems that might have been encountered in following the previous policy and taking into account any improvements, innovations and technological advances in order to add content and quality to the succeeding policy and to make it perform better than the previous policy.

  9. We further direct that the Hajj Policy should pay attention to special needs of the lady pilgrims and it should be aimed at making the pilgrimage for lady pilgrims as smooth and trouble-free as possible.

  10. Mr. E.N.S. Anam, who addressed us in course of hearing of the matter, seems to have some positive and constructive ideas that deserve to be taken into consideration. Mr. Attorney General helpfully stated that he would ask Mr. Haris Beeran to arrange a meeting between Mr. Anam and the concerned officer in the MEA so that Mr. Anam's suggestions may be taken into consideration in the preparation of the draft Hajj Policy 2013-2017.

    ii) Time bound conduct of hajj process.

  11. Mr. Ahmadi submitted that the entire hajj process must be completed in a time bound manner with permissible grace periods where practicable. He submitted that the schedule for making applications, scrutiny etc. should be published in advance with firm cut off dates in the Hajj Policy itself so that the public at large is informed, well in advance, about those dates which should be treated as inflexible and should not be extended at any cost. Mr. Ahmadi further submitted that in order to complete the hajj process satisfactorily and effectively while dealing with applications running into lakhs it was imperative to adhere to the fixed time schedule, as in the case of admission to medical courses. He invited our attention to a decision of this Court in Mridul Dhar v. Union of India (2005) 2 SCC 65. In that decision this Court fixed a time schedule for post graduate and super specialty course admissions (vide paragraph 31 of the judgment) and in paragraph 35 of the judgment directed for complete adherence to the time schedule for grant of admission for post graduate courses.

  12. We accept the submission of Amicus and direct that the time schedule with regard to the hajj process as fixed by the Haj Committee of India should be strictly adhered to and no authority or court should interfere in the process of submission of applications, scrutiny and allotment of seats by the Haj Committees, in case the interference would lead to disturbing the time schedule.

  13. This direction is made keeping in view that in appropriate cases individual interest must yield to the larger good and in the larger interest.

    iii) Accommodation in Saudi Arabia.

  14. Mr. Ahmadi submitted that the arrangement of accommodation of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia made on an annual basis is both expensive and inconvenient for the pilgrims and the arrangement for accommodation must be made on a long term basis, at least for a period of five years, if not for ten or more years. Mr. Ahmadi further submitted that though the proposal in that regard was made long ago, nothing tangible has been achieved so far. He, therefore, requested the Court to constitute a Committee to make arrangements for the pilgrims' accommodation in Saudi Arabia on a long term basis.

  15. The learned Attorney General informed the Court that a Committee was already constituted for the purpose of securing accommodations on a long term basis. However, the Committee alluded to by the Attorney General consists only of Government officials and apparently it has not been able to do any thing so far. We feel that a Committee with some non-official members may be more effective in this regard. We, accordingly, constitute a committee of the following persons:

    (i) Joint Secretary, Gulf and Hajj, Convenor;

    (ii) Consul General of India in Jeddah;

    (iii) Chairman of the Haj Committee of India;

    (iv)...

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