Delhi High Court asks what if schools, hospitals increase charges in difficult times like airlines

Delhi High Court's query came while hearing two PILs seeking capping of air fares charged by the various airlines in the country.

Published: 16th July 2019 11:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th July 2019 11:40 PM   |  A+A-

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court (File Photo | EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Whether institutions in pharmacy, healthcare, education sectors can increase their charges or fees, as done by aviation sector, while "encashing upon the difficulties" faced by public at large, the Delhi High Court sought to know Tuesday from the DGCA.

The court's query came while hearing two PILs seeking capping of air fares charged by the various airlines in the country.

"Which are the other institutions behaving like airlines, those which are encashing upon the difficulties of others and of public at large those which are encashing on negative situations.

Think about it and answer," A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and C Hari Shankar said.

The court posed the query to the counsel for Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) who submitted that the rules do not include capping of prices and it was not an economic regulator.

The counsel said DGCA was only regulating safety and security of operations of airlines.

The court said if all the institutions like schools, colleges, hospitals, pharmaceutical and media will do like this (as done by airlines), what will happen? "What will happen if hospitals start charging extra during the time of seasonal diseases, what will happen if medicines are being sold at an increased rate at the time of seasonal diseases," it asked.

The court listed the matter for final disposal of the petitions on November 7.

The court was hearing two separate petitions of advocate and social activist Amit Sahni and activist Bejon Misra, seeking capping of air fares across the country so that customers are not fleeced arbitrarily by airlines.

Misra claimed that capping of air fares was necessary as airlines often charge more than 10 times the base rate when there is a shortage of seats.

He sought that airlines should not be allowed to charge more than a justified hike in the advance booking fare.

He has said that capping of air fares or guidelines to regulate them are necessary to ensure "greater transparency and accountability" and "discourage profiteering and undue enrichment in the business of civil aviation".

Sahni, in his petition, has urged the court to direct the authorities to frame guidelines so as to put a cap on airfares and prevent the private airlines here from charging arbitrarily, irrationally and exorbitantly for air flights.

He stated that he had filed an RTI application seeking information regarding airfares and Ministry of Civil Aviation replied that these were not controlled by the government.

Citing the 2016 Jat agitation in Haryana, which reportedly forced some passengers to pay over Rs 90,000 for their journey, the plea said if there would have been a cap, the airlines could not have charged such a huge amount.

Regarding an application, filed by Misra in the pending petition, seeking direction to the Civil Aviation Ministry and the DGCA to ensure refunds or provide alternative travel mode for passengers who have booked tickets with the airline which has temporarily suspended all its flights, the bench said how does such an application lie in a plea for capping of air fares.

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