Reality Check India

May 2012 – Haj subsidy order copy

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE
JURISDICTION

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.28609 OF 2011

UNION             OF             INDIA              &              ORS.
PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

RAFIQUE           SHAIKH            BHIKAN            &            ANR.
RESPONDENT(S)

WITH

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NOS.33190-33217 OF 2011

RAFIQUE SHEIKH BHIKAN ETC.                         PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA & ORS.                         RESPONDENT(S)

WITH

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.191 OF 2012

MOHAMMAD SHAMS RABBANI                        PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                              RESPONDENT (S)

WITH

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.192 OF 2012

MUBARAK HUSSAIN                                    PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                              RESPONDENT (S)

WITH

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.196 OF 2012

HAJI ABDUL SALEEM KOOKA                       PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                         RESPONDENT (S)

WITH

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.197 OF 2012

MOHAMMAD EMAD UDDIN                           PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                         RESPONDENT (S)

WITH

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.198 OF 2012

MOHD. ASLAM                             PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                         RESPONDENT (S)

AND

TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NO.199 OF 2012

SYED INTESAR MEHDI                            PETITIONER (S)

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                         RESPONDENT (S)

O R D E R

Aftab Alam, J.

SLP (CIVIL) NO.28609/2011

This special leave petition has been filed by the Union of India
against an order passed by Bombay High Court on October 5, 2011  in  a
batch of writ petitions challenging the Government of India  2011  Haj
Policy that required a private operator/travel agent to have  “minimum
office area of 250 sq. ft.” as one of the eligibility  conditions  for
registration for ferrying pilgrims for Hajj. The High  Court  rejected
the challenge but gave  directions  to  the  Government  of  India  to
allocate certain seats to some of the writ petitioners from the  eight
hundred seats from the Central Government  quota  that  had  not  been
allocated to anyone till the time of  passing  of  the  order  by  the
court. Aggrieved by the directions given by the High Court, the  Union
of India filed this special leave petition and by order dated  October
14, 2011 this Court stayed the operation of the  directions  given  by
the High Court. In any event, by the time the matter came before  this
Court, the directions could not be acted upon as there was very little
time left for the commencement of Hajj for that year.
By a  subsequent  order  dated  February  17,  2012  this  Court
declared its intent to examine the Haj policy of the Government in all
its aspects and not to limit the matter to the issue of  Private  Tour
Operators (PTOs).
As directed by the Court, the Government of India has filed  its
affidavit enclosing, among other documents, its  Haj  Policy  for  the
year 2012 (2012 Haj Policy). A number of  intervention  petitions  are
filed in which many issues are raised; IAs  are  also  filed  in  very
large numbers on behalf of private operators/  travel  agents  (either
individually or through associations) in which objections  are  raised
against one or the other condition for eligibility for registration as
PTOs for ferrying Hajj pilgrims.
By this interim order, we propose  to  deal  with  some  of  the
issues arising from the 2012 Haj Policy on a  priority  basis  leaving
others to be dealt with in due course.
THE PTOs
The dispute between  private  operators/travel  agents  and  the
Government of India for registration as PTO for carrying Hajj Pilgrims
is of a recent origin but is tending to become an annual feature.   It
is, therefore, necessary to address  the  issue  and  to  conclusively
resolve it.
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 Hajj. 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  Hajj  seats  directly  by  the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and there was, therefore,  no  involvement  of
the Government of India in the allocation of any  Hajj  quota  to  the
PTOs.  After Hajj 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 Hajj.  For  registration  of  a  private  operator/travel
agent as PTO, the  Government  of  India  frames  policy  laying  down
conditions subject to which registration would be given.   It  further
frames a policy for allocation of quotas to the registered  PTOs  from
the overall number of pilgrims  assigned  to  PTOs  in  the  bilateral
agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi  Arabia.   As  noted  above,  this
arrangement began from 2002 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia  made  it
mandatory for the PTO to come through  their  respective  Governments.
Initially, there were not many private operators/travel agents  coming
forward to claim any share in the seats  allocated  in  the  bilateral
agreements for the PTOs but around the year 2006 more and more private
operators/travel agents started  claiming  allocation  from  the  Hajj
seats reserved for PTOs. It appears that it took three or  four  years
for the people in this line of business to realize that this  was  the
opening up of a new highly lucrative commercial venture. It is,  thus,
to be seen that though for the past four or five years the  number  of
pilgrims reserved for PTOs in the  bilateral  agreement  has  slightly
gone down, there has been a large increase in the number of registered
PTOs and an even larger increase in the  number  of  applications  for
registration as PTOs.  This would be evident from the following chart:-

|Sl. No.         |Haj Year        |Number of PTOs  |Total seats for |
|                |                |                |PTOs            |
|1               |2005            |239             |35,960          |
|2               |2006 I          |277             |45,455          |
|3               |2006 II         |293             |46,930          |
|4               |2007            |297             |47,000          |
|5               |2008            |298             |47,080          |
|6               |2009            |615(*)          |47,405          |
|7               |2010            |602(**)         |45,637          |
|8               |2011            |567(***)        |45,441          |
|9               |2012            |-               |45,000          |

(* comprising 297 old PTOs and 315 new ones)
(** 13 PTOs were disqualified in 2010 because of  adverse  reports  on
them)
(*** excluding Duplication of one PTO).
It is stated in the affidavit filed by the Union of  India  that
for  Hajj  2011,  1322  applications  were   received   from   private
operators/travel agents, out of which, only 567  were  found  eligible
and the 45,491 seats were distributed to them as per  the  PTO  policy
for Haj 2011.  Some of the private operators/travel agents who  failed
to get registration approached the Bombay High Court  in  a  batch  of
Writ Petitions in which the High Court passed  the  order  from  which
this special leave petition arises.
From these facts, it is not difficult to deduce that the dispute
between the private operators/travel  agents  and  the  Government  of
India in regard to registration as PTOs  arises  from  a  conflict  of
object and purpose.  For most of the private  operators/travel  agents
registration as PTOs is mainly a question of more profitable business.
Under the bilateral agreement no PTO can be given a quota of less than
fifty pilgrims. Normally, a quota of fifty pilgrims would mean, on  an
average and by conservative standards, a profit of rupees thirty  five
to fifty lakhs. This in turn means that  any  private  operator/travel
agent, successful in getting registered as a PTO with  the  Government
of India would easily earn rupees thirty five to fifty  lakhs  in  one
and a half to two months and may then relax comfortably for  the  rest
of the year without any great deal of business from any other  source.
For the Government of India, on the other hand the registration of the
PTOs, is for the purpose to ensure a comfortable, smooth and  trouble-
free journey, stay and performance  of  Hajj  by  the  pilgrims  going
through the PTOs.
The pilgrim is actually the person behind all this  arrangement.
For many of the pilgrims Hajj is once in a life  time  pilgrimage  and
they undertake the pilgrimage by taking out the savings  made  over  a
life time, in many cases especially for this purpose. Hajj consists of
a number of parts and each one of them has to be performed in a rigid,
tight and time-bound schedule. In case due to any mismanagement in the
arrangements  regarding  the  journey  to  Saudi  Arabia  or  stay  or
traveling inside Saudi Arabia any of the parts is   not  performed  or
performed improperly then the pilgrim loses not only his life  savings
but more importantly he loses the Hajj. It  is  not  unknown  that  on
landing  in  Saudi  Arabia  a  pilgrim  finds  himself  abandoned  and
completely stranded.
It is, thus, clear that in making selection for registration  of
PTOs the primary object and purpose of the  exercise  cannot  be  lost
sight of. The object of registering PTOs is not to distribute the Hajj
seats to them for making business  profits  but  to  ensure  that  the
pilgrim may be able to perform his religious duty  without  undergoing
any difficulty, harassment or suffering. A reasonable  profit  to  the
PTO is only incidental to the main object.
In Prem Printing Press  v.  Bihar  State  Text  Book  Publishing
Corporation Ltd. & Ors., 2001 (4) PLJR 311 relating to  the  grant  of
contract for printing of text books  by  the  Bihar  State  Text  Book
Publishing Corporation Ltd., coming up before Patna High Court one  of
us (Aftab Alam J.) considered question of the importance of  the  work
and its objective in granting contracts by statutory bodies  and  made
the following observations:
“3. During the past three decades a substantial amount  of  case
law has accumulated on  the  question  of  award  of  government
contracts and  a  lawyer  with  sufficient  skills  may  without
difficulty press into  service  certain  observations  from  the
earlier decisions in  any  dispute  relating  to  the  award  of
government contracts. But while hearing learned  arguments  from
the counsel appearing for the parties I was unable to  keep  out
of my mind for a moment the fact that the  contract  in  dispute
was for printing of school text books for the academic year 2001
and though two out of the three parts of  the  year  is  already
over, the school children are yet to receive the books  intended
for them. While lengthy arguments were advanced on the  plea  of
upholding the rights-of the individual  and  much  reliance  was
placed on a number of Supreme Court decisions, I was  unable  to
relinquish the thought that the contract for printing of  school
text  books  for  a  particular  academic  year  was   basically
different from and could not be viewed in  the  same  way  as  a
contract for ten years for  extraction  of  resin  from  forests
(Kasturi Lal; (1980) 4 SCC 1) or the contract for the supply  of
fresh milk for the Military Farms (Harminder Singh Arora; (1986)
3 SCC 247) or the contract for allotment of  damaged  stocks  of
rice (Food Corporation of India; A.I.R. 1993  SC  1601)  or  the
grant of licence for the operation of ‘Cellular Mobile Telephone
Service’ (Tata Cellular: A.I.R. 1996 SC 11) or the contract  for
publication of  telephone  directories  of  Mahanagar  Telephone
Nigam Limited (Sterling Computers Ltd; A.I.R. 1996 SC 51) or the
contract for development and exploration of oil  fields  (Centre
for Public Interest Litigation; A.I.R. 2001 SC 80).
4.  To  my  mind,  upholding  of  individual  rights   and   the
enforcement of the individual’s rights by  the  intervention  of
the writ court is undoubtedly important  but  in  doing  so  the
court must not over look the damage that might be  caused  to  a
larger public cause, as in this  case.  Speaking  for  myself  I
would not have entertained this writ petition and thrown it  out
at the very threshold, indeed leaving it open for the Petitioner
to claim damages by bringing an action against  the  Corporation
before a Civil Court. Such a course would not have rendered  the
Petitioner remediless and at the same time it  would  also  have
saved this Court from finding itself in a position where it  may
be seen as causing obstruction in  the  expeditious  and  timely
supply of text books to school children.”
(emphasis
added)

In another case Ranjit Kumar Ghosh v. State of Bihar and  Others
[2004 (3) BLJR 2242] dealing with the purchase of indelible ink by the
Election Commission for proper conduct of election Aftab Alam J. (once
again as a judge of Patna High Court) made the following observations:-

“15. What was observed in the case  of  printing  of  text-
books applies with greater force  to  this  case.  Democracy  is
basic to and inseparable from  our  constitutional  scheme.  The
survival of democracy depends upon proper conduct  of  elections
and the importance of indelible ink is  quite  obvious  for  the
proper conduct of  elections.  The  purchase  of  indelible  ink
therefore cannot be taken in the same way  as  the  purchase  of
other common materials such as office furniture, stationary  and
other articles of  ordinary  use  by  the  Election  Commission.
Putting the purchase of indelible ink  at  par  with  the  other
regular purchases would throw the field open to private  players
and one predictable out-come of it would be that the purchase of
indelible ink would inevitably get embroiled in Court cases.  On
each occasion one or the other of the unsuccessful tenders would
drag the dispute with regard to the grant of the supply order to
Court. This would be at a time when elections are very near  and
all the resources  and  attention  of  the  Election  Commission
should be focussed on holding the elections  properly.  At  that
stage a notice from the Court to  meet  the  objections  of  the
unsuccessful tenders in the matter  of  purchase  of  ink  would
naturally have a debilitating effect on the  Commission  and  it
may also be reflected in the conduct of elections by it. Such  a
situation, the Court would like to avoid at all costs.

16. What is discussed above are important considerations in
the matter of purchase of indelible ink for  holding  elections.
Nevertheless,  this  Court   should   have   put   aside   these
considerations, howsoever, weighty, had it been  satisfied  that
the present arrangement for the purchase of the ink was  tainted
with arbitrariness or unreasonableness or it had  the  slightest
tinge of mala fide but on an over all examination of the  matter
the Court feels satisfied that the arrangement does  not  suffer
from any of those vices. The  arrangement  was  evolved  by  the
Election Commission,  with  the  aid  of  Government  controlled
agencies when the constitutional  republic  of  India  was  only
twelve years old and when no  private  trader  might  have  come
forward to help the commission in its work on his expenses.  The
Commission has stuck to the arrangement that was  evolved  forty
years ago. The arrangement does not confer any material benefits
upon anyone and it does not lead  to  the  profiteering  by  any
individual person, inasmuch as, M/s. Mysore Paints and Varnishes
Ltd. is  a  Government  concern.  In  these  circumstances,  the
purchase of indelible ink by the Commission from the  Government
owned company cannot be described as distribution of any largess
by the State.”

In Tata Cellular v. Union of India (1994) 6  SCC  651,  a  three
Judge Bench of this Court in paragraph 70 of  the  judgment  made  the
following observations:-
“It cannot be denied that the principles of judicial review
would apply to the exercise of contractual powers by  Government
bodies  in  order  to  prevent  arbitrariness  or   favouritism.
However, it must be  clearly  stated  that  there  are  inherent
limitations in  exercise  of  that  power  of  judicial  review.
Government is the guardian of the finances of the State.  It  is
expected to protect the financial interest  of  the  State.  The
right to refuse  the  lowest  or  any  other  tender  is  always
available to the Government.  But, the principles laid  down  in
Article 14 of the Constitution have to be  kept  in  view  while
accepting or refusing a tender.  There can  be  no  question  of
infringement of Article 14 if the Government tries  to  get  the
best person or the best quotation.  The right to  choose  cannot
be considered to be an arbitrary power.  Of course, if the  said
power is exercised for any collateral purpose  the  exercise  of
that power will be struck down.”
(emphasis added)
In a more recent decision in  Union  of  India  and  another  v.
International Trading Co. and another (2003) 5 SCC  437,  relating  to
the renewal of the permit granted under the provisions of the Maritime
Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels)  Act,  1981,
while reversing the  decision  of  the  High  Court,  this  Court,  in
paragraphs 22 and 23 of the judgment, held and observed as follows:-
“22.   If   the   State   acts   within   the   bounds   of
reasonableness,  it   would   be   legitimate   to   take   into
consideration the national priorities and adopt trade  policies.
As noted above, the ultimate test is whether on  the  touchstone
of reasonableness the policy decision comes out unscathed.

23.   Reasonableness of restriction is to be determined  in
an objective manner and from the standpoint of interests of  the
general public and not from the standpoint of the  interests  of
persons upon whom the restrictions have  been  imposed  or  upon
abstract consideration.  A restriction  cannot  be  said  to  be
unreasonable  merely  because  in  a  given  case,  it  operates
harshly.   In  determining  whether  there  is  any   unfairness
involved;  the  nature  of  the  right  alleged  to  have   been
infringed, the underlying purpose of  the  restriction  imposed,
the extent and  urgency  of  the  evil  sought  to  be  remedied
thereby, the disproportion of  the  imposition,  the  prevailing
condition at the relevant time,  enter  into  judicial  verdict.
The reasonableness of  the  legitimate  expectation  has  to  be
determined with respect to the  circumstances  relating  to  the
trade or business in question.   Canalisation  of  a  particular
business in favour of even a specified individual is  reasonable
where the interests of the country are concerned  or  where  the
business affects the economy  of  the  country.   (See  Parbhani
Transport Coop. Society Ltd. v.  Regional  Transport  Authority,
AIR 1960 SC 801, Shree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v.  Union  of  India
(1974) 1 SCC 468, Hari Chand Sarda v. Mizo District Council, AIR
1967 SC 829 and Krishnan Kakkanth v. Govt. of Kerala,  (1997)  9
SCC 495.”
(emphasis added)

Seen in the light of the aforesaid decisions, no  objection  can
be taken to high standards and stringent conditions being set  up  for
registration as PTOs and the court’s interference would be called  for
only if it is shown that any condition(s)  was  purely  subjective  or
designed   to   exclude   any   individual   or   group   of   private
operators/travel agents, i.e., bordering on malice.
After this rather long preface, we now proceed  to  examine  the
conditions laid down for registration of PTOs in the 2012 Haj Policy.
First of all a young lady appearing-in-person, stated before  us
that she worked  as  a  private  operator/travel  agent  and  she  was
aggrieved by clause 4 of the press release for registration of Private
Tour Operators – Hajj 2012, that put a restriction over more than  one
member of a family getting registration as PTO.  Clause 4 of the press
release reads as under:-
“4.   In case more than one  member  of  a  family  applies
which includes wife and dependent children, only one  member  of
such family will be eligible for registration for Hajj-2012.”

The lady submitted that though her husband was also in the  same
business but she worked as private  operator/travel  agent  separately
and independently from her husband.  She further submitted that simply
because her husband was also in the same business, there was no reason
to deny her registration as PTO.
In response to the lady’s  apprehension,  the  learned  Attorney
General in his most amiable manner assured the lady and the Court that
in case more than one member of a  family  satisfied  the  eligibility
conditions and one of them was a woman, she would be given  preference
for registration to the exclusion of others and if there was no woman,
preference would be given to the member of the family who  was  oldest
in the business.
In regard to clause 4, another objection was raised that it does
not define “family” comprehensively and the Court was  asked  to  give
direction for a comprehensive definition of the term  “family”.  There
is no substance in the objection and we find that there is  sufficient
clarity as to what means “family”.  In case anyone makes  a  complaint
that in the process of registration he/she was eliminated  arbitrarily
and in a mala fide way by abusing the restrictive provision of  clause
4, that complaint may be examined on its own merits.
Minimum requirement of 250 sq. ft. office area (carpet)
A number of individuals  and  groups  joined  in  the  objection
against the condition that requires a minimum office area (carpet)  of
250 sq. ft. and submitted that the condition  was  arbitrary  and  was
aimed at excluding the smaller operators.  It was submitted  that  the
requirement of having such a large area for  office  was  quite  harsh
especially for a place like Mumbai.
This condition must also be viewed keeping the interest  of  the
pilgrim  as  paramount.  Learned  Attorney  General   submitted   that
according to the Saudi Regulations, a PTO must be allotted  a  minimum
of 50 pilgrims. He further pointed out that Hajj is  a  pilgrimage  on
foreign soil and it comprises a number of rituals. Since a majority of
the pilgrims would be going for Hajj for the first time, the PTO needs
to extensively brief the pilgrims about the rituals and the  procedure
to be followed during Hajj. Separate classes for briefing the pilgrims
need to be conducted by the PTO. Individual agreements are required to
be made with the pilgrims by the PTO for which the  pilgrims  need  to
visit the office  of  the  PTO.  All  logistics  including  ticketing,
accommodation, visa processing etc. has to be  made  by  the  PTO  for
which they need the presence of pilgrims.  Further, this condition  is
laid down to make  sure  that  only  genuine  operators  approach  the
Ministry for Hajj quota,  i.e.  those  who  have  a  proper  and  well
maintained office and who  are  genuinely  interested  in  taking  the
pilgrims  to  Saudi  Arabia.  The  condition  was  further  meant   to
scrutinize the PTOs who sell their quota to other PTOs.  The  Attorney
General stated that during the 2010 Hajj, the Ministry got  complaints
from various quarters regarding black marketing of seats  by  some  of
the PTOs. It  was  informed  that  some  of  the  PTOs  after  getting
registration and allocation of seats instead of carrying the  pilgrims
themselves sold the seats to other PTOs. The Ministry decided to  take
action against such unscrupulous PTOs but it found that many  of  them
had no offices at all. The addresses furnished by them were  fake  and
they were all fly by night operators. A genuine PTO should  be  having
an office with a reasonable area. The condition is provided to protect
the interests of the pilgrims.
On a consideration of submissions made on behalf the parties, we
see no arbitrariness and unreasonableness  in  the  requirement  of  a
minimum office area (carpet) of 250 sq. feet.
Annual turnover of Rs.1 crore.
Many objections were raised against the requirement  to  furnish
documents showing minimum annual turnover of Rs.1 crore for the  years
2009-2010 or 2010-2011.
Mr. N. Rao, senior advocate appearing for  a  group  of  private
operators/ travel agents, in course of his submissions, admitted  that
the turnover on the basis of a quota of 50 Hajj pilgrims  alone  would
not  be  less  than  Rs.75  lakhs.  This  means  that  if  a   private
operator/travel agent is asking for a readymade business package worth
Rs.75 lakhs in turn over he/she should at least show a  turn  over  of
rupees one crore from his own business.  Seen,  thus,  the  turn  over
fixed in the Government policy appears to be a modest figure.
Security deposit of Rs.25 lakhs
What is stated above in regard  to  the  annual  turnover  would
equally apply in respect of the refundable security deposit  of  Rs.25
Lakhs.
In addition, the learned Attorney General pointed out  that  in
case any unforeseen situation arises during Hajj, the  PTO  should  be
financially sound enough to face it.   The  Attorney  General  further
informed the Court that it was often seen in the past that  PTOs  left
the pilgrims in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and what is  worse  left  them
unattended even while hospitalised in Kingdom of Saudi  Arabia.  There
were instances when pilgrims who met with  an  accident  during  their
stay in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were not given any medical aid or  any
kind of help or assistance. In many cases the  PTOs  did  not  provide
even the  promised  facilities  and  this  condition  was,  therefore,
necessary to keep them under a check.
We see no unreasonableness in the condition.

Court cases
The learned Attorney General clarified that a court case against
a private operator/travel agent  that  would  disqualify  him/her  for
registration did not mean a case instituted by him/her for enforcement
of any constitutional or legal  rights.  The  court  case  that  might
render a private operator/travel  agent  ineligible  for  registration
means a case instituted against the private operator/travel  agent  as
an accused or in regard to some liability against him.
On-line applications
It may be  recorded  here  that  the  learned  Attorney  General
accepted one of the suggestions made by Mr.  P.S.  Narasimha,  learned
senior counsel appearing for a  group  of  private  operators/  travel
agents,  that  applications  may  be  made  on-line,  subject  to  the
condition that  the  on-line  application  must  be  complete  in  all
respects.
On hearing all sides on the conditions for registration, we  are
satisfied that none of the conditions can be said to be  arbitrary  or
unreasonable and the conditions prescribed in the Government of  India
2012 Haj Policy do not warrant any interference  by  this  Court.  The
2012 Haj Policy for registration of PTO as contained in Annexure P5 to
the affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India  is,  accordingly,
approved for the 2012 Hajj.
The grant of approval to Annexure P5, however,  is  not  to  say
that there is no scope for improvement in the policy  of  registration
for PTOs. We feel that there is a serious omission in  the  policy  in
that it does not require the applicants for registration  to  disclose
the kind of arrangements they proposed to offer to  the  pilgrims  and
the charges they would levy from the pilgrims. We realize that at  the
stage of applying for registration the applicant may give only a basic
idea of the standard of arrangements and an approximate  quotation  of
charges but even that would provide some check against fixing inflated
and arbitrary prices on seats once registration is granted.
We would further like to point out that there is another way  of
looking at the process of registration. The Government  of  India  has
presently adopted an open  ended  approach  under  which  any  private
operator/travel agent who satisfies the conditions in the  Haj  Policy
is found eligible and granted registration. Now, it is undeniable that
the number of PTOs cannot exceed 900, because in that case the  number
of seats allotted to  each  of  them  would  go  below  50,  which  is
impermissible under the bilateral agreement. In other words, there  is
an inbuilt ceiling on the number of PTOs. If that be  so,  why  cannot
the ceiling be put on a more manageable number such as 600 to 700  and
selection be made from the applicants on a competitive basis  applying
a uniform criteria.
THE HAJJ SUBSIDY

As regards the Hajj subsidy, from the figures for the past  19
years given in the affidavit filed by the Union of India,  it  appears
that the amount of subsidy has been increasing every year. This is  on
account of increase both in the number  of  pilgrims  and  the  travel
cost/air fare.  In the year 1994, the number  of  pilgrims  going  for
Hajj from India was as low as 21035; in 2011, the number  of  pilgrims
increased to 125000. In the year 1994, the cost of travel per  pilgrim
was only Rs.17000.00; in the year 2011, it went up to Rs.54800.00.  As
a result, the total Hajj subsidy that was Rs.10.51 crores in the  year
1994 swelled up to Rs.685 crores in the year 2011.
The Union of India has justified the grant of subsidy stating,
in paragraph 21 of the affidavit, as follows:
“The Ministry of Civil Aviation floats a tender  to  select
an airline to get a competitive fare to ferry the Haj  pilgrims.
For the year 2010, the fare per pilgrim was Rs.47,675/-  and  in
2011 was Rs.54,800/-.  The higher fares charged by the  Airlines
during the Haj period vis-à-vis other times of the year  is  due
to regulations imposed by the Saudi Arabian  Authorities  during
the Haj period.  The norm  is  that  the  Airline  should  carry
pilgrims to Jeddah and return with zero  load  and  vice  versa.
This forces the Airlines to increase the fares, which  otherwise
come to around Rs.25,000/.  Therefore, the Government thought it
fit to collect a  reasonable  fare  from  the  pilgrim  and  the
additional fare charged because of the Haj specific logistics is
paid by the Government  to  the  airline.  The  Government  also
decided not to pass on and burden the additional amount  charged
by the airline, purely on logistics, to  the  pilgrims.   During
the Haj of 2011, each pilgrim was  charged  Rs.16,000/-  towards
airfare and the additional amount of  Rs.38,000/-  per  Haji  is
what is termed “subsidy”.  It is submitted that the  subsidy  is
given only to those pilgrims who go through the Haj Committee of
India.”

It is further stated in paragraph 24  that  the  grant  of  Hajj
subsidy by the Government of India was challenged before this Court in
a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India registered as
Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 of 2007 (Prafull v. Union of  India).  This
Court by a  reasoned  judgment  and  order  dated  January  28,  2011,
dismissed the writ petition upholding the constitutional  validity  of
the Haj Committee Act, 2002 and the grant of subsidy by the Government
of India in the air fare of the pilgrims.
From the statement made in paragraph 21 of  the  affidavit,  as
quoted above, it is clear that the Government of India has no  control
on the cost of travel for Hajj. The air fare to Jeddah  for  traveling
for Hajj is increased by airlines to more than double as a  result  of
the regulations imposed  by  the  Saudi  Arabian  Authorities.  It  is
illustratively stated in the affidavit that in the year 2011, the  air
fare for Hajj was Rs.58,800/- though the normal air fare to  and  from
Jeddah should have been around Rs.25,000/. In the same  paragraph,  it
is also stated that for the Hajj of 2011,  each  pilgrim  was  charged
Rs.16,000/- towards air fare. In other words, what  was  charged  from
the pilgrims is slightly less than 2/3rd of the otherwise normal fare.
We see no justification for charging from the pilgrims an amount  that
is much lower than even the normal air fare for a  return  journey  to
Jeddah.
As regards the  difference  between  the  normal  air  fare  and
increased fare, we appreciate the intent of the Government of India to
provide subsidy to cover the  additional  burden  resulting  from  the
stringent regulation imposed by the Saudi Arabian Authorities. We also
take note of the fact that the grant of subsidy has been found  to  be
constitutionally valid by this Court. We are also not oblivious of the
fact that in many other purely religious events there are  direct  and
indirect deployment of state funds and state resources.  Nevertheless,
we are of the view that Hajj subsidy is something that  is  best  done
away with.
This Court has no claim to speak on behalf of all the Muslims of
the country and it will be presumptuous for us  to  try  to  tell  the
Muslims  what  is  for  them  a  good  or  bad   religious   practice.
Nevertheless, we have no doubt that a very large majority  of  Muslims
applying to the Haj Committee for going to Hajj would not be aware  of
the economics of their pilgrimage and if all the facts are made  known
a good many of the pilgrims would  not  be  very  comfortable  in  the
knowledge that their Hajj is funded to a  substantial  extent  by  the
Government. We remind ourselves that the holy Quran  in  verse  97  in
Surah 3, Al-e-Imran ordains as under:
“ 97.  In it are manifest signs  (for  example),  the  Maqam
(place) of Ibrahim (Abraham); whosoever enters  it,  he  attains
security. And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House  (Ka’bah)
is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can  afford  the
expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision  and  residence);  and
whoever disbelieves [i.e. denies Hajj  (pilgrimage  to  Makkah),
then he is a disbeliever of Allah], then  Allah  stands  not  in
need  of  any  of  the  Alamin  (mankind,  jinn  and  all   that
exists).”[1]
We, therefore, direct the Central  Government  to  progressively
reduce the amount of subsidy so as to completely eliminate it within a
period of 10 years from today.
The subsidy money may be more profitably used for upliftment  of
the community in education and other indices of social development.
Before leaving the issue of Hajj subsidy, we would like to point
out that as the  subsidy  is  progressively  reduced  and  is  finally
eliminated, it is likely that more and more pilgrims would like to  go
for Hajj through PTOs.  In that eventuality the need may arise  for  a
substantial increase in the quota  for  the  PTOs  and  the  concerned
authorities would then also be required to make a more nuanced  policy
for registration of PTOs and allocation of quotas of pilgrims to them.
For formulating the PTO policy for the coming  years,  the  concerned
authorities in the Government of India should bear this in mind.  They
will also be well advised to invite and take into account  suggestions
from private operators/ travel agents for preparing the PTO policy for
the future.
THE GOODWILL HAJJ DELEGATION

The issue of the Goodwill Hajj Delegation raises two  questions;
one in regard to the reasonableness and justification for  sending  an
official delegation on the occasion of Hajj and the  other  about  its
composition and the manner in which people are nominated as members of
the official delegation. In the affidavit of the Union of India, it is
stated that the Goodwill Delegation was first sent to Saudi Arabia  in
the year 1967 and since then the delegation is being sent every  year.
The primary purpose of the delegation, according to the affidavit,  is
“to convey  goodwill  on  the  auspicious  occasion  of  Hajj  to  the
Government of Saudi Arabia as well as to the Indian Pilgrims”.  It  is
further stated that the delegation interacts with  the  Hajj  pilgrims
from India, understands their issues and takes up the  same  with  the
Saudi Arabian authorities. The delegation addresses  these  issues  in
their meeting with the Minister of Hajj, Saudi Arabia and the Governor
of Makkah.  The delegation also has regular meetings with  the  Indian
Hajj mission and the Hajj authorities of Saudi  Arabia.  A  report  is
submitted  to  the  Government  about  the   conduct   of   Hajj   and
recommendations for a better Hajj in the ensuing year.
In the affidavit, it is further stated that a similar  but  much
smaller delegation comprising no more than five to  eight  members  is
sent by Bangladesh. The  Bangladesh  delegation  usually  consists  of
Minister of Hajj, Secretary (Hajj),  people  working  in  the  Islamic
Organizations  and  one  or  two  standing  members  of  Parliamentary
Committee relating to  Hajj/Religious  Affairs.  The  number  of  Hajj
pilgrims  from  Bangladesh  in  the  year  2011  was  one  lakh  fifty
thousands.  Pakistan does not send any official Hajj Delegation.
As to the size of the delegation and the manner of nomination of
its members, from the affidavit it appears that in 1967  the  Goodwill
Delegation consisted  of  three  members.  Till  1973,  there  was  no
material increase in its size and till 1987 the number of its  members
remained  under  ten.  Thereafter,  the  delegation  started  steadily
increasing in size and in 1997  the  Goodwill  Delegation  was  of  31
members. In the year 2005, there were 36 members in the delegation and
in the year 2010 the number of its members was 30. In the  year  2011,
the number was marginally reduced to 27.
In pursuance of our direction, the affidavit also gives  a  list
of the members of the Goodwill Hajj Delegation for the years  2002  to
2011. The affidavit does not disclose any criteria  or  guidelines  on
the basis of which persons are selected  for  being  included  in  the
Goodwill Delegation. From the list of  the  members  of  the  Goodwill
Delegation for a period of 10 years no rational basis  is  discernible
for selecting members for the delegation. The list shows  a  disparate
group of persons randomly put together from  various  professions  and
walks of life. What is more surprising is that there are  some  people
who were able to go as member of the  Goodwill  Delegation  more  than
once, some even three or four times. In the absence  of  a  reasonable
basis the nomination to the Goodwill  Delegation  evidently  works  on
patronage and granting of favours.  On  the  basis  of  the  materials
brought to our notice we  have  no  doubt  that  the  way  people  are
nominated as  members  of  the  Goodwill  Delegation  is  in  complete
violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Now  coming   back   to   the   reasonableness   and
justification for sending an official Goodwill Delegation for Hajj, it
is noted above that the first such delegation was  sent  in  the  year
1967. The sending of the Goodwill Hajj Delegation from India  for  the
first time in the year 1967 was not by accident or  chance  and  those
whose memory goes back to that year would recall the circumstances  in
which the official Goodwill Delegation on the  occasion  of  Hajj  was
first sent to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is no secret that  after
the 1965 war Pakistan tried to use even the Hajj pilgrimage for  anti-
India propaganda and the purpose of sending  the  Goodwill  Delegation
was to meet the anti-India propaganda.
The reason for which the delegation  was  first  sent  has  long
ceased to exist  and  Pakistan  is  no  longer  sending  any  official
Goodwill  Hajj  Delegation  to  Saudi  Arabia.  It  may,  however,  be
contended that with the passage of time the purpose of the  delegation
has changed in the changed circumstances the delegation  serves  other
objects and purpose. As a matter of fact in the affidavit filed by the
Union of  India  the  sending  of  the  Goodwill  Hajj  Delegation  is
justified on two other counts (1) to convey goodwill to the Government
of Saudi Arabia as well as to the Indian pilgrims and (2)  to  oversee
and facilitate reason the arrangements made for pilgrims that  go  for
Hajj through the Haj Committees. Dealing first with the second reason,
we are constrained to say that it appears quite unconvincing.  In  the
earlier paragraph of the affidavit of the Union of India, it is stated
that Hajj is one of the most complex organizational  tasks  undertaken
by Government of India outside its borders. It is further stated  that
all arrangements for the Hajj  of  pilgrims  are  coordinated  by  the
Consulate General of India, Jeddah and the Embassy of  India,  Riyadh.
Haj Committee of India, established under the Haj Committee Act,  2002
is responsible for making the  arrangements  for  pilgrims  performing
Hajj through them.  It is, thus,  to  be  noted  that  the  making  of
arrangements for the pilgrims is the duty and  responsibility  of  Haj
Committee of India, a statutory body constituted under an Act  of  the
Parliament. The arrangements are further over seen  by  the  Consulate
General of India,  Jeddah  and  the  Embassy  of  India,  Riyadh.  The
arrangements are, thus, looked after by competent professional  people
and any intervention by a disparate group of persons themselves  going
to Saudi Arabia for the first time is bound to create  more  confusion
than being of any help in  making  any  proper  arrangements  for  the
ordinary pilgrims numbering over 125,000.  We are unable to accept the
second reason given as justification for  sending  the  Goodwill  Hajj
Delegation.
Coming now to the first reason, that is, to convey  goodwill  to
the Government of Saudi Arabia as well as to the Indian  pilgrims,  we
fully appreciate the idea of  the  people  of  India  extending  their
goodwill to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the auspicious occasion  of
Hajj but we completely fail to see how even that purpose can be served
by sending such a large, unwieldy,  amorphous  and  randomly  selected
delegation.

On a careful consideration of the issue we are quite clear  that
the present practice of sending Goodwill Hajj Delegation must come  to
stop. If the Government of India wishes to send a message of  goodwill
to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of Hajj it may  send  a
leader and a deputy leader and if there be any  need  to  present  any
group from India for any formal event in the course of Hajj the leader
may, in consultation with the Indian Ambassador  and  Consul  General,
constitute a group of ten Indians from among the very large number  of
Indian pilgrims who are there at their own expense. It is to  be  kept
in mind that over a lakh and  fifty  thousand  pilgrims  go  for  Hajj
paying for their own expenses. The Indian Ambassador in  Saudi  Arabia
and perhaps more than him, the Consul General  at  Jeddah  would  know
about the arrival of many distinguished, learned and important Muslims
among them and with the assistance of the Ambassador  and  the  Consul
General, the leader of the two member official team would be  able  to
form a far  more  appropriate  and  representative  Indian  team  from
amongst them than a motley delegation whose members  are  selected  on
irrelevant considerations.
In this interim order we have primarily dealt with the issues of
PTOs, Hajj Subsidy and the Goodwill Hajj Delegation. There  are  other
issues which we propose to deal with in due course.
In the affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of  India,  it  is
stated that from the overall number of 1,70,000 pilgrims  fixed  under
the bilateral agreement, the Government of India sets apart a quota of
11,000 seats to be reserved for the following categories:-
“(i)  Khadim-ul-Hujjaj (to assist Pilgrims in Saudi Arabia)
selected by the State Haj Committees (300)
(ii)  Mehram (women who get selected in the Qurrah but must
have an accompanying male member as  per  Saudi  Law)
(400)
iii) The community of Bohras (2,500)
iv) States/ Union Territories  on  special  consideration
e.g., Jammu and Kashmir (1,500) and Lakshadweep (239)
v) States/Union Territories with  Hajj  applications  in
excess of Quota (2,500),
vi) Haj Committee of India (500) and
vii) Government of India (3,061)”

We would like to know in greater detail how the special  quotas  under
the heads (i) to (vii)  are  allocated.   It  may  be  noted  that  in
paragraph 8 of the affidavit it is stated that the quota of Government
of India (3061 for this year) is  allocated  to  unselected/waitlisted
applicants before the Haj Committees on recommendation by  dignitaries
and eminent persons. We have some initial reservations  on  allocation
of seats on recommendation by dignitaries and eminent persons.
We direct the Union of India to file further  affidavit  stating
in greater detail the way the quota of 11,000 seats is being allocated
for 2012 Hajj.
We would also like to  know  in  greater  detail  the  procedure
followed by the Haj Committee of India and the state Haj committees in
making selection for sending pilgrims for  Hajj.  We  would  specially
like to examine the functioning of the Haj Committees  of  the  States
where the number of applicants  exceed  the  quota  allotted  for  the
state.
We direct  the  Haj  Committee  of  India  to  file  a  detailed
affidavit giving full details of the process of selection of  pilgrims
from the applications made to the State Haj Committees.  The affidavit
should also give details of the charges realized from the pilgrims and
the facilities made available to them.
Haj  Committees  of  the  States  of  Maharashtra,  Kerala   and
Karnataka are directed to be impleaded as respondents.  Let notice  go
to them with a direction to file  affidavits  giving  details  of  the
selection process and stating stage wise how selections are being made
for sending pilgrims for the 2012 Hajj, what amounts are charged  from
each pilgrim and what facilities are provided to them.
The affidavits, as directed above,  must  be  filed  within  two
months from today.
Put up on July 23, 2012.
SLP(C) Nos. 33190-33217 of 2011
In view of the  order  passed  in  SLP(C)  No.28609/2011,  these
special leave petitions have become infructuous and are disposed of as
such.
IAs by private operators.
In view  of  the  order  passed  in  SLP(C)  No.28609/2011,  all
interlocutory applications filed by  private  operators/travel  agents
raising objections to the Government of India 2012  Haj  Policy  stand
disposed of.
TP(C) Nos.191/2012, 192/2012, 196/2012, 197/2012, 198/2012, 199/2012.
In view  of  the  order  passed  in  SLP(C)  No.28609/2011,  the
transfer petitions are rendered  infructuous  and  stand  disposed  of
accordingly.

………………………………….……J.
(Aftab Alam)

…………………………………….…J.
(Ranjana Prakash Desai)
New Delhi;
May 08, 2012.
———————–
[1] The Noble Qur’an (English Translation of  the  meaning  and  commentary)
published by  The  Ministry  of  Islamic  Affairs,  Endowments,  Da’wah  and
Guidance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which supervises King  Fahd  Complex
For The Printing of The Holy Qur’an in Madinah Munawwarah.

On being asked the meaning of the word “Al Sabeel’ occurring in  the  verse,
the Prophet is reported to have said, ‘provisions for journey and the  means
of transport’ (Bulughul Muram by Ibne Hajr, 667 & 713: Jassas  Razi,  Ahkam-
ul-Quran, Darul-Kitab-ul-Arabi Vol. 2 Page 23: also in Tafseer  Ibne  Kaseer
published by Tameer-e-Insaniyat, Urdu Bazar, Lahore ,  Vol.  1   Pages  458-
459).

On being asked when Hajj becomes obligatory,  the  Prophet  is  reported  to
have said when the provisions of journey  and  the  mode  of  transport  are
available.  (Tirmizi 813).

It is related that people from Yaman used to  come  for  pilgrimage  without
any provisions with them, saying that they were people trusting in  God  and
when they came to Makkah, they resorted to begging: The holy  Qur’an    thus
addressed this issue in Verse 197 Surah 2. Al-Baqarah (Bukhari, 1523).

197. The Hajj (pilgrimage) is (in) the well-known  (lunar  year)  months
(i.e. the 10th month, the 11th month and the first ten days of  the
12th month of the Islamic calendar, i.e. two months and ten  days).
So whosoever intends to perform Hajj therein (by  assuming  Ihram),
then he should not have  sexual  relations  (with  his  wife),  nor
commit sin, nor dispute unjustly during  the  Hajj.   And  whatever
good you do, (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a  provision  (with
you) for the journey, but the best provision  is  At-Taqwa  (piety,
righteousness).  So fear Me, O men of understanding!

Hajj is obligatory when one has control over expenses  of  traveling  and
mode of transport whether as owner or on hire.  Borrowing  or  using  the
means owned by someone else is impermissible.  If someone offers gift for
going for Hajj one is within rights to accept or reject  the  offer.  The
expenses of traveling and mode of transport means that one  should  have,
besides a house for residence, clothes,  household  articles,  sufficient
money for traveling to Makkah and for coming  back;   if  there  are  any
loans, to repay them and to leave behind sufficient money for expenses on
those dependent upon him.
(Fatawa-e-alamgiri edited and corrected by Abdul Latif Hasan Abdul Rehman
Darul Kutubul Ilmiya Beirut, Lebanon 2000 Vol. 1   Page 240).

See also: the Religion of Islam by Maulana  Mohammad  Ali  S.  Chand  and
Company Pages 525-526.

See also:  Kitab-ul-Fiqh by Abdul Rehman Al  Jazeeri  translated  by  Mr.
Manzoor Ahsan Abbassi, published by Mehqama Auqaf  Punjab,  Lahore,  1977
Pages 1034-1035.

See also: Qamusool Fiqh by Khalid Saifulla Rehmani, Kutubkhana  Naiyeemya
Deoband 206, Vol. 3 Pages 195-196.

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