While criticising arbitrary government policies that adversely affect citizens, the Bombay high court, on Monday, told the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that policies pertaining to pilgrimage should be transparent and unambiguous.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the ministry’s notification that requires Haj tour operators to have an office with a carpet area of at least 250 square feet.
A division bench of justice PB Majumdar and justice RM Sawant restrained the ministry from implementing the policy till September 23, when they will hear the case again.
Rashind Bakhla, a Haj tour operator and the All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers (AIHUTOA) had moved the high court last week contesting the clause in the ministry’s notification dated July 15 which rendered nearly 170 operators in the country unfit to run their agencies.
Bakhla and AIHUTOA had contended that the 170 operators cater to more than 10,000 pilgrims. “The operators have made bookings for which nearly Rs50 crore has been been remitted,” the petitioners’ counsel argued. She told the court that the first batch of pilgrims was scheduled to leave for Haj on September 29.
Justice Majumdar said, “Policies cannot be changed overnight. What does 250 square feet of carpet area have to do with pilgrimage? This is arbitrary. We don’t know who is framing these policies.”
The ministry's lawyer, Advait Sethna, told the court that the ministry had issued a press release regarding the notification well in advance. He sought time to obtain details from the ministry before the next hearing.