Syed Ashwaq Ahmed Vs.
Jt.Secretary & Chief Passport ofr. & ANR.  INSC 726 (9 September
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) No.22936 OF
JT. SECRETARY &
ALTAMAS KABIR, J.
Special Leave Petition is directed against the judgment and order dated 23rd
June, 2008, passed by the Karnataka High Court in W.P. No.14078 of 2007,
dismissing the Petitioner's 2 writ petition seeking a Mandamus upon the Respondents
to allow him to perform passport work as a travel agent, though he was not a
member of the Travel Agents' Association of India (TAAI).
Petitioner claims to have been working as a travel agent, without being a
member of TAAI, and has been acting on behalf of various clients since 1997 for
submitting applications for obtaining passports on their behalf. It is also the
Petitioner's case that he was issued with a Travel Agent Code number by the
Passport Officer, Government of India, in the Ministry of External Affairs, the
Respondent No.2 herein, to whom the applications would be submitted and after
the applications had been accepted, the same would be processed by the said
Officer upon payment of the prescribed service charge. According to the Petitioner,
3 guidelines were issued from time to time, but the said Respondent withdrew
the entire system of recommending travel agents to deal with passport work and
issued instructions that in respect of travel agents who were present before
the passport office earlier, even if they were not members of TAAI, they would
be permitted to continue to do the work which they had been performing. In
order to avail of the said benefit, the travel agents, who were similarly
placed as the Petitioner, filed applications for permission to continue the
work which they had been performing. However, since the said applications were
rejected by the authorities, the Petitioner was compelled to file this Special
behalf of the Petitioner it was also contended that the aforesaid question had
been considered by the Karnataka High Court and had been 4 decided in Writ
Petition No.40360 of 2004, and, ultimately, the impugned restrictions came to
be quashed and all travel agents who were carrying on business earlier became
entitled to continue to do the work and the endorsements dated 14th March,
2006, issued by the Respondent No.2 were quashed.
to the Respondents, however, the system of recommending travel agents to carry
on the work of applying for and receiving passports on behalf of their clients
was dispensed with in July, 1992. Although, the said de-recognition of travel
agents in July, 1992, was challenged in various courts, including this Court,
the scheme was ultimately upheld and the Ministry of External Affairs,
Government of India, gave the benefit thereof to the travel agents who were not
members of TAAI, provided they were recognized as travel agents before July,
1992, when the recognition of travel agents was dispensed with. Since the 5
petitioner had started operating as a travel agent only in 1997, after such
derecognition, he was not entitled to the benefit of the Scheme promulgated on
18th July, 2000.
matter was considered in some detail by the High Court which took the view that
travel agents, who were not members of TAAI, had been recognized by the
Department for the issuance of passports on behalf of their clients.
Ultimately, all the matters which were filed before this Court were transferred
to the various High Courts and fresh guidelines came to be issued on 18th July,
2000. As a one-time concession, agents who were working prior to 1992 were
given the benefit of the scheme, even though they were not members of TAAI. The
scheme was formulated on 18th July, 2000, and under the scheme travel agents
who had been working from before 1992 continued to be recognized as travel
agents, although, they were not members of TAAI.
Based on the
aforesaid reasoning, the High Court held that once the scheme came into
operation and a one-time concession was made in respect of travel agents who
were working from before 1992 but were not members of TAAI, the Petitioner who
commenced business as a travel agent from 1997, was not entitled to the benefit
of the scheme. The High Court dismissed the Petitioner's writ petition upon
holding that since the Petitioner was not a member of TAAI and was not also
recognized as a travel agent prior to 1992, he was not entitled to the benefit
of the scheme promulgated on 18th July, 2000.
Manohar Lal Sharma, learned Advocate who appeared for the Petitioner, urged
that since the Petitioner had been awarded a Code Number by the Ministry of
External Affairs, Government of India, it must be deemed that he was an
accredited agent, notwithstanding the fact that he was not a member 7 of TAAI.
Mr. Sharma submitted that pursuant to the decision taken by the Ministry which
came into effect from the month of August, 2000, all travel agents who were
then recognized by the passport office under the previous dispensation, would
continue to be recognized even if they were not members of TAAI. However, no
new non-TAAI recognized travel agent could be added to the earlier list in
future. Mr. Sharma submitted that since the Petitioner was an accredited agent,
the aforesaid provisions would govern the Petitioner as well, despite the fact
that he was not a member of TAAI. He also submitted that when the scheme was
promulgated and the Petitioner was already functioning as a travel agent, it
would be highly arbitrary to prevent him from continuing to function as a
travel agent in view of the new policy whereunder only those travel agents who
were members of TAAI would be entitled to perform the 8 work of submitting
applications on behalf of Indian citizens applying for passports.
indicated hereinbefore, the Respondents took the stand that when the entire
system of recognizing travel agents to deal with passport work had been
withdrawn in February, 1992, the Petitioner, who was not a member of the TAAI
at that point of time, could not get the benefit of the scheme floated by the
controversy in this Special Leave Petition hinges on the question as to whether
the Petitioner had been unjustly prevented from carrying on business as travel
agent since he was not a member of TAAI and, therefore, not entitled to the
benefit of the scheme promulgated on 18th July, 2000. The reasoning of the High
Court that the Petitioner could not be recognized as a travel agent since he
had started his business in 1997, long after the system had been withdrawn, is
in keeping with the 9 said scheme and does not require any interference.
Once the policy of
recognizing travel agents for the purpose of submitting passport applications
and receiving the same on behalf of a client, was discontinued after July,
1992, the Petitioner, who had begun his travel agency after the said date, was
not entitled to the benefit of the fresh guidelines which came to be issued on
18th July, 2000, by providing a one-time concession for all travel agents who
were working prior to 1992, even though they were not members of TAAI.
new policy adopted by the Government has not been questioned by the Petitioner,
whose grievance is confined to his exclusion from the scheme which came into operation
in August, 2000.
We are not, however,
inclined to accept the submissions made on the Petitioner's behalf since a
decision had been taken by the Central Government to derecognize travel agents
who were not members 10 of TAAI, giving a one-time concession to those travel
agents who were not members of TAAI but had been performing passport work for
clients prior to 1992. The policy is neither irrational nor unreasonable and
appears to have been made to streamline the system of applying for and receiving
therefore, find no reason to interfere with the decision of the High Court and
the Special Leave Petition is, accordingly, dismissed.