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A three judge bench of the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on a petition stating that airlines operating both domestic and international flights in India are violating the Ministry order, which requires that they pay the full refund for tickets booked for air travel during the COVID-19 lockdown.
During the hearing via videoconferencing, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed that the non-refund of those tickets booked for air travel after lockdown was initiated was "arbitrary."
The plea moved by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell through advocate Jose Abraham has argued that the failure of the airlines to refund the full amount collected for tickets, following the cancellation of flights in the wake of restrictions imposed by the government to contain COVID-19, is in violation of the Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008 issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The plea contended that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.
On April 16, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) issued an office memorandum directing all airline operators to refund the full amount collected for all tickets booked during the first phase of the lockdown period (from March 25 to April 14) for domestic and international air travel.
The petition highlights that, thereby, the Office Memorandum "leaves out the vast majority of passengers who had booked tickets before the flights were banned and thus indirectly approves the practice of the Airlines providing Credit Shell for booking effected before the lockdown, though the same clearly violates the refund rules of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)."
The petitioner states that there should be no need for a passenger to request a refund, because it is the duty of the airlines to start the refund process immediately after a flight cancellation.
[READ THE ORDER]