Not sitting in appeal against the fixation of minimum and maximum airfare by Centre; Delhi HC refuses to entertain PIL
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Not sitting in appeal against the fixation of minimum and maximum airfare by Centre; Delhi HC refuses to entertain PIL

Angelenne

The Delhi High Court yesterday refused to entertain a petition challenging the minimum airfares fixed by the Central Government on account of COVID -19. (Veer Vikrant vs UOI)

The matter was listed for hearing before a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.

Petitioner, Veer Vikrant Chauhan highlighted that the minimum fare fixed by the Central Government for certain sectors was, in fact, higher than the market price of the tickets.

The Petitioner showed the Court that as on May 21, the fare from Delhi to Kolkata for the flight scheduled for August 4, 2020 varied from Rs 2,924 to Rs 3,153 and was thus cheaper than the minimum fare of Rs 3,500 fixed by the Central Government.

This difference in fare prices would lead to fixation of prices by the cartel of the airlines, the Petitioner stated.

The Court, however, opined that it was "not sitting in appeal" against the fixation of minimum and maximum airfare by the Government.

The Court said that it was not inclined to interfere in the policy decision of the Government, that too by the way of a public interest litigation.

It ought to be kept in mind that whenever such type of tariff is fixed by the Government of India in exercise of the powers conferred under the Aircraft Act, 1934 to be read with rules enacted thereunder, the Courts would be extremely slow in interfering with the same. The exercise of tariff fixation, and economic matters in general, are issues on which the writ court would generally refrain from exercising jurisdiction, unless found to be totally arbitrary or unreasonable
Delhi High Court

The Court noted that Section 8B(1) of the Aircraft Act, 1934 empowered the Central Government to take necessary measures to minimise the possible danger to public health in the event of outbreak of any dangerous epidemic.

Holding that the exercise of such a power by the Central Government could not be said to be arbitrary or unreasonable, the Court observed,

"The order dated 21st May, 2020 is expressly stated to be in operation only for a period of three months, and subject to review/ modification even during this period. Thus, this is a stop gap arrangement by the Government, for which the present public interest litigation is not tenable at law. An aggrieved individual can always come to the Court or can go to the competent authority."

The Court further added that in the present circumstances when various restrictions have been placed on the airline operations, the maximum and minimum airfare is aimed at striking "a balance between the passengers as well as the airlines".

Clarifying that it was not going into the merits of the case, the Court remarked,

..problem being faced by everyone during this pandemic situation is such a unique phenomenon which requires experimental solutions. There cannot be any mathematical solution for a problem like this. Government has to be given a degree of free movement in joints.
Delhi High Court

The Petition was accordingly disposed of.

The Petitioner was represented by Advocates Vineet Malhotra, Vishal Gohri, Shubhendu Kaushik.

Standing Counsel Jasmeet Singh appeared for the Centre.

Read the Order:

Veer Vikrant vs UOI.pdf
Preview
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