The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought clarifications from the Centre if it was willing to refund tickets for flights cancelled after normal operations resumed following the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Bar and Bench reported. The Supreme Court was hearing a plea on the proposal of the Ministry of Civil Aviation that tickets booked in domestic and international carriers between March 25 and May 3 will be fully refunded.
“When the lockdown was there and flights were cancelled that is a different subject,” Justice Shah said, according to Mint. “But when the flights are resumed and functioning now and flight operator cancels the flight due to some technical difficulty then what is the position on [the] refund?”
The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Shubhash Reddy, also sought Centre’s stand on the refund of tickets booked before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde argued that relief should not be limited to people who had booked tickets during the first lockdown period.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that the affidavit was finalised after consulting all stakeholders, including travel agents. He added that the proposal was made keeping the best interests of the public and the carriers.
After the bench asked Mehta if he would like to clarify further, the solicitor general said he would file an additional affidavit to the refund for different dates of bookings as the court has suggested.
The court also gave airlines and other stakeholders 10 days to file a reply to the Centre’s affidavit on the refund.
Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, representing Air Passengers Association, said the petitioner largely agreed to the proposal of the ministry expect one or two things. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for SpiceJet, also said his client was happy with the proposal. However, Go Air, represented by senior advocate Arvind Datar, said it had some objections to the affidavit.
The matter has been posted for another hearing on September 23.
On June 13 during a hearing on a public interest litigation filed by a non-governmental organisation, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre, airlines and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to work out modalities for refund of the tickets cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation then informed the Supreme Court that tickets booked by passengers between March 25 and May 3 for domestic and international air travel will be fully refunded within 15 days.
The scheme formulated by the Centre further stated that if any airline is not in a financial position to pay immediately, the fare amount shall be kept in a credit shell. This can be availed by the passenger for travel by the same airline on any route before March 31, 2021.
India enforced a lockdown in March, soon after the first coronavirus cases began to emerge in the country. Both domestic and international flights were grounded. The Centre had allowed domestic flight services to resume on May 25, but at only one-third capacity. The cap was later increased to 45% and then to 60%. However, the suspension of international flights to and from the country has been extended till September 30.
India reported 89,706 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 43,70,128. The country recorded 1,115 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the toll to 73,890. As many as 33,98,844 people in the country have recovered from the infection. India’s recovery rate is currently 77.65% while the mortality rate is 1.7%.