Invite public offers and seek the best deal for the Deccan Odyssey, the Bombay High Court directed Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) on Friday.
A division bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice RP Sondurbaldota said MTDC should invite public offers at least through its web portal, if not by inviting bids, to get best deals for the luxury train.
The bench, however, refused to enter into the controversy revolving past deals of the train.
Vengurla-based tour operator Harshad Gawade had filed a public interest litigation seeking that the route of the luxury train should be restricted to Maharashtra.
He also raised suspicion about the existing contract for running the train, contending it was awarded without inviting competitive bids.
The petitioner’s counsel, Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, had contended that the Deccan Odyssey was supposed to showcase Maharashtra, similar to Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan and Golden Chariot in Karnataka, and, therefore, its route should have been restricted to the state.
The bench, however, refused to entertain the contention considering the fact that MTDC had incurred huge losses by restricting the route of the train to Maharashtra, and started making profits after leasing it out for routes outside the state.
Presently, the Travel Corporation of India, which has got the Deccan Odyssey under sub-lease from The Luxury Trains, is operating it to destinations such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi.
But accepting Kumbhakoni’s contention regarding awarding the contract without inviting competitive bids, the judges said MTDC should invite public offers at least by publishing available dates of the luxury train on its website and lease it to whoever offers the best deal, if inviting bids was not possible.