The Bombay high court on Monday asked the ministry of external affairs to consider the grievances of the petitioners who have come to court challenging the new policy on tour operators for the Haj pilgrimage.
The petitioners and interveners argued at length, after which the court asked the additional solicitor general to look into the suggestion and reply to the court on Tuesday.
The court was hearing petitions challenging the ministry’s notification, which requires Haj tour operators to have an office with a carpet area of at least 250 sq ft.
Rashind Bakhla, a Haj tour operator and the All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers Association (AIHUTOA) had moved the high court last week, contesting the clause in the ministry’s notification in July, which rendered nearly 170 Haj tour operators in the country unfit to run their agency. The fate of many pilgrims registered with these tour operators is now uncertain.
Additional solicitor general Darius Khambatta told HC that the Saudi government had threatened to cancel the entire quota, because the government had sent the list late. He urged the court not to pass any order that might affect the government’s policy, since the entire Haj quota and the fate of more than 45,000 pilgrims might be in jeopardy.
The MEA had, last week, clarified that the list of Haj pilgrims had already been implemented and sent to the authorities in Saudi Arabia on September 18, prior to the court’s order on September 19 that restrained it from doing so. Some petitioners raised doubts over this claim, stating that September 18 was a Sunday.