The petitioners are private Haj Operators (HGO). They arrange tours to the holy shrines of Mecca/Madina in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Government of India has an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, per which, quotas are allotted to India for number of tourists visiting for Haj. 30 percent of such quotas are meant for private HGOs. The Government of India issued the HAJ Policy, 2023, per which, HGO are to be registered for allocation of quota. The petitioners have been allocated quotas for last several years. However, this time, the application for registration was rejected holding that the petitioners were not eligible. Hence, petitioners are before the court.
The petitioners contended that : (i) no reason has been provided for rejection, (ii) rejection is unilateral and without opportunity of being heard, (iii) the petitioners have been allocated quota for several years and hence, eligibility is not in doubt.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court allows the petitions and directs the respondent ministry to provide reasons for rejection by 10.05.2023, the petitioners to file their submissions by 12.05.2023 and decision to be taken and communicated within a week therefrom and allot quotas accordingly. In the mean time, records statement that the quotas eligible for the petitioners would not be exhausted.
FULL TEXT OF THE ORDER OF ITAT DELHI
Prathiba M. Singh, J. (Oral)
1. This hearing has been done through hybrid mode.
2. These petitions are filed by Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) for Haj 2023, challenging the public notice dated 5th May, 2023 issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (Haj Division). By way of the impugned public notice, the Ministry has declared the eligible and ineligible HGOs for Haj 2023.The said communication is set out below:-
“Subject: Registration of Haj Group Organisers for Haj 2023 – regarding.
With reference to this Ministry’s circular No. HAJ20/28/2022- HAJ-MOMA dated 14.03.2023 inviting applications for registration and allocation of quota to the Haj Group Organisers for Haj 2023, a total of 810 applications were received in the Ministry for registration under 2 categories (244 in Category-1 and 566 in Category-2). These applications were examined in the Ministry in terms of the provisions of the Policy for Haj Group Organisers for Haj 2023 and on the basis of the documents/ information submitted by the HGOs in their application and their subsequent clarifications/ replies.
2. As a result of the scrutiny process, 171 HGOs in Category-1 and 340 HGOs in Category-2 have been found eligible for registration for Haj 2023. The list of eligible HGOs in Cat-1 and Cat-2 is at Annexure I and II respectively. The list of 280 HGOs who are not found eligible for Haj 2023 is at Annexure-III. Further, in case the name of the HGO is not mentioned in the enclosed list, the HGO may also submit their representation to the Ministry within the due date mentioned below.
3. A committee has been constituted in the Ministry to look into issues related to registration of HGOs for Haj 2023. Accordingly, the HGOs who wish to represent their case, may submit their representation to the Haj Division, 11th Floor, Pt. Deendayal Antyodaya Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi110003 or through email to firstname.lastname@example.org latest by 08.05.2023 (5 PM). The representations received after due date and time will not be considered.”
3. The grievance of the Petitioners is that they fall in the list of 280 HGOs who have been rendered ineligible as per the above public notice. The issue raised by the Petitioners is that the reasons for declaring the Petitioners as ineligible have not been communicated to the Petitioners. Thus, though the above public notice gives an opportunity to the Petitioners to submit a representation by the due date i.e., 8th May, 2023 (5:00pm), since the Petitioners are not even aware of the reasons which have rendered them ineligible, no representations can be made. Thus, the notice declaring them ineligible is under challenge.
4. Ld. Standing Counsel appearing for the Ministry of Minority Affairs, under instructions from Mr. S.S. Verma, Deputy Secretary, submits that the reasons qua each of the Petitioners, who have been rendered ineligible, are being prepared and shall be served upon all the 280 HGOs latest by tomorrow i.e., 10th May, 2023. Such HGOs are free to file their representations within two working days. The representations would be decided within one week and the allotment of quota would not be exhausted prior to the decision on the representations.
5. Heard. A perusal of the petitions would show that same have been preferred by the following HGOs:-
|WP (C) No. 6016 of 2023||Al Hatim Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd|
|WP (C) No. 6017 of 2023||Shoyeb Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd|
|WP (C) No. 6025 of 2023||Al Amal Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd|
|WP (C) No. 6026 of 2023||Al Meena Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd|
|WP (C) No. 6027 of 2023||Poona Travels Pvt. Ltd.|
|WP (C) No. 6081 of 2023||i. Hajipir Haj Tour – Petitioner No.1
ii.Faiz International Tour and Travels – Petitioner No.2
iii. Al Muqaddas Tour and Travels – Petitioner No.3
iv. Alliance Tours and Travels – Petitioner No. 4
6. Ld. Counsel in W.P.(C) 6081/2023, submits that he has received instructions on behalf of Petitioner no.4 to not press the petition.
7. Having perused the public notice dated 5th May, 2023, it is clear that out of 810 HGOs, 171 HGOs have been found eligible in category-1 and 340 HGOs have been found eligible in category-2 for Haj 2023
8. As per the submissions made today, it has been brought to the attention of the Court that the total number of visas that are to be allotted to the HGOs this year are 35,005 nos. Each of the category-1 and category-2 HGOs operators is entitled to 60 visas and 50 visas respectively. Thus, insofar as the eligible HGOs are concerned, a total of 10,260 and 17,000 would be exhausted. There would be a large number of remaining visas which would have to be dealt with in accordance with the HGO Policy 2023 of the Ministry.
9. Considering the fact that the reasons for declaring the Petitioners have not been communicated to the Petitioners, the opportunity to make representations by 8th May 2023 at 5pm is of no consequence, as there is no basis for filing a representation. Accordingly, the following directions are issued:-
i) Let the Ministry communicate the reasons for ineligibility to the Petitioners on or before 10th May, 2023 by 6:00 pm.
ii) The Petitioners who are aggrieved by the reasons which are communicated to them are free to make their respective representations to the Ministry by 12th May, 2023 midnight, as also remove deficiencies, through the e-mail address mentioned in the public notice.
iii) The representations shall be decided by the Ministry and shall be communicated to the Petitioners through email by 6 pm on 19th May, 2023.
iv) In case any of Petitioners are found eligible, their candidature shall be considered for the allotment of the remaining visas in accordance with the Ministry’s Policy.
10. The statement of Mr. Mukul Singh, ld. Counsel that the quota shall not be exhausted till the representation of the Petitioners is decided, is taken on record and is accepted by the Court.
11. The petitions are disposed of in the above terms along with all pending applications, if any.