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Haj Pilgrimage: SC asks Centre to respond to Haj tour operators' plea

Haj Pilgrimage: SC asks Centre to respond to Haj tour operators plea

New Delhi: The Federation of Haj Private Tour Operators (PTOs) of India moved the Supreme Court challenging the validity of a condition imposed on Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) to charge the additional quota of 10,000 seats, for the pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, on the rates of Haj Committee of India.

The court on Tuesday asked the Centre to respond.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant issued a notice to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, but asked the petitioners' organization to keep engaging with government officials, and do not withdraw efforts to resolve the matter.

Senior advocate Salman Khursheed and Suleiman M Khan representing the Federation of Haj of India, contended that the direction will be withdrawn, as it is completely arbitrary and unreasonable. 

"The condition imposed on HGOs, that is, to charge the additional quota seats allotted to them on applicable rates of Haj Committee of India is unreasonable. And, this condition has been imposed at a stage when no time is left for the HGOs to cope with the changed scenario," said the petition.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on June 24. 

The federation termed the government's decision against the interest of Haj pilgrims along with the private tour operators and HGOs.

Since 2002, the government has begun evolving a system under which private operators/travel agents would register as PTOs and then be allocated quotas from the overall number of pilgrims specified for HGOs/PTOs.

After registration as PTO, a private operator/travel agent would then get a fixed number of pilgrims for Haj. For this, the government frames a policy citing conditions required from the PTOs in the bilateral agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Initially, 45,000 seats were allocated to HGOs, which was later increased to 50,000 seats. Subsequently, the Saudi government allocated 25,000 seats as additional quota for India and out of which 14,975 seats were allotted to Haj Committee of India (HCOI) and an additional quota of 10,000 seats more was allocated to HGOs. 

The overall quota for India after allocation of additional quota became 2 lakh seats out of which 1,40,000 seats were allocated to HCOI and the total quota of HGOs after allocation of additional quota became 60,000 seats.


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