The Centre informed Supreme Court this week that a solution had been arrived at for passengers seeking refund of air tickets of flights cancelled during the lockdown.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy & MR Shah that a meeting had been convened between the requisite stakeholders and some solution had been arrived when the plea seeking full refund of tickets for cancelled flights booked prior to and during lockdown came up for hearing.
Court thus directed the law officer to place the affidavit on record within a week on behalf of the Ministry of Aviation.
Senior Advocate CA Sundaram appearing for petitioner(s) sought permission to implead all the Airlines as party and the same was permitted by the Supreme Court.
The matter is now listed for further consideration on September 9.
On June 11, the top court had sought the Central Government's stand & had asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to discuss the modalities involved with all concerned airlines and respond to the Court. The SG had stated that his personal opinion was that the money ought to be refunded.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve had appeared on behalf of SpiceJet and had apprised the Court that Airlines had suffered a hit of over $60 Billion globally, due to the pandemic. It was further informed that 49% of the flying cost was fixed, with zero revenue to the airlines.
The plea has been filed by Pravasi Legal Cell on behalf of Advocate Jose Abraham and highlights that the action of non-refund by airlines of the full amount collected for tickets due to cancellation is "arbitrary and in violation of the Civil Aviation Requirement issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation".
Moreover, the petitioner has averred that instead of providing full refund of the amount collected, the action of Airlines of providing mandatory "Credit Shell" is in clear violation of the DGCA requirements according to which the option of refund is "the prerogative of the passenger and not a default practice of the Airline".
The plea states that the direction by the Government that refunding in full, only those who had booked tickets during lockdown and leaving out those who booked tickets prior to the lockdown, even though flights were cancelled is antithetical to basic Constitutional tenets.
Furthermore, the plea states that airline companies should be showing "humanitarian virtues" rather than using the "challenging times as an opportunity to extract unlawful gains from people who are already in misery"
The petitioner also earmarks the rationale to this by stating that the question of anyone booking a ticket during the lockdown does not arise since passenger flights had already been cancelled and that this makes the Officer Memorandum dated April 16 "ambiguous" and "devoid of any logic" whatsoever.