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The petition states that passengers did not intend to avail of the credit shell created by airlines. Instead, they should be given a full refund for air travel cancelled owing to the lockdown.
The Supreme Court today asked the Centre about its position on airfare refund when "flights are resumed and functioning now and flight operator cancels the flight due to some technical difficulty."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah that the Centre has already decided that there will be full refund for tickets booked during lockdown 1 and 2.
Non-profit organisation Pravasi Legal Cell, through Advocate Jose Abraham, had filed a petition stating that passengers did not intend to avail of the credit shell created by airlines within the stipulated period. Instead, they should be given a full refund for air travel cancelled owing to the lockdown.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde argued,
"Centre's affidavit gives an impression that relief is confined to only those who had booked during the first lockdown...Relief should be granted to everyone whose flights had been cancelled due to the lockdown due to the COVID-19 induced pandemic."
Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram, appearing for the Air Passengers Association, referred to the Centre's affidavit and argued,
"If time is to be given to them, then it should be till December 31. My money is being retained by them, then surely some reasonable interest should be given. It should be a full refund."
While explaining the different categories of bookings, SG Mehta stated,
"Refund can only be given for those (tickets) that were booked from India. If British Airways was booked from London, we don't have the jurisdiction."
Senior Advocates Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi, and Arvind Datar - appearing for SpiceJet, Indigo, and GoAir respectively - stated that they are largely in agreement with the Centre's affidavit.
The Court proceeded to grant time to the airline operators and all other parties and stakeholders to file affidavits. The Centre has also been asked to file an additional affidavit with clarifications.
The next date of hearing is September 23.
The Centre's affidavit was filed pursuant to the Supreme Court's June 13 order, which had asked private airlines and the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to find a way to refund the airfare of passengers whose flights were cancelled during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Centre has stated that non-refund of air tickets booked during the lockdown and the creation of an involuntary credit shell by airlines violates the Civil Aviation Requirements and provisions of the Aircraft Rules of 1937.