Pandemic CANCELLED “Palace on Wheels” tour in 2019, These passengers NOW get HC permits to board train

The Palace on Wheels tour was axed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the year 2019, and thus, HC has allowed 18 foreigners to board the train now as they paid the fees in 2019 itself.

Pandemic CANCELLED “Palace on Wheels” tour in 2019, These passengers NOW get HC permits to board train

The pandemic cancelled a lot of events across the world. The Palace on Wheels tours conducted by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation was one of the many. This tour is conducted on a special train that runs through the state offering an immersive and luxurious experience to travellers. Well, 18 foreign nationals deposited rs 15 lakh for their bookings for the tour, which, however, was cancelled in the lieu of pandemic. Now, the Delhi High Court has given a judgement that lets these foreigners board the train. The decision came from Justice Prathiba M Singh, after going through the urgency of the matter, which was filed as a petition from Worldwide Rail Journeys Pvt Ltd.

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The high court granted relief subject to some directions. Considering that there are 18 passengers who have to board the train `Palace on Wheels` and begin their journey today and the overall facts and circumstances of this case, the bench directed that the petitioner shall deposit Rs 15 lakh by January 5, 2023, with the RTDCL by way of a demand draft. Secondly, the petitioner and the RTDCL`s officials shall reconcile the accounts and a report shall be placed on record by the next date of hearing.

A meeting for the said purpose shall be held tomorrow at 3:00 pm, in the office of the RTDCL. The court directed that an affidavit of the petitioner shall be placed on record to the effect that any amounts as may be directed by this Court shall also be deposited. The said undertaking shall be filed by Monday i.e. January 9, 2023.

The above directions are subject to the outcome of the present writ petition, the court said. The matter has been listed on May 11, 2023, for further hearing. The petitioner Worldwide Rail Journeys Pvt. Ltd. had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the RTDCL on February 26, 2013, by which the petitioner was appointed as a General Sales Agent for booking of tickets on the luxury trains `Palace on Wheels` and `Royal Rajasthan on Wheels` on a commission basis.

The said MoU has been further renewed till 2024. The case of the petitioner is that the Respondent had announced a special promotion for bulk bookings on the train `Palace on Wheels` for the years 2019-20 and 2020-21. The petitioner is stated to have made several bookings for trips on the said train during that period.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the said trips were cancelled. Advocate Satya Sabharwal, Counsel for the petitioner, referred to the letter of August 5, 2022, by which the RTDCL had stated that the tours/ trips which were cancelled due to COVID-19 shall be shifted free of cost one time to the next years 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23. In the said letter, the difference amount was stipulated as being liable to be collected from the petitioner before the trip. The court noted the urgency in the matter that there are 18 passengers who are foreign nationals whose bookings were among the aforementioned bulk bookings and were shifted to the year 2022-23.

The trip of these passengers on the train `Palace on Wheels` has to commence today on January 4, 2023, at 4:30 pm and the RTDCL is raising a demand of Rs 60 lakh as additional payment for allowing the said passengers to board the train today, the court noted.

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The counsel for the petitioner argued that the amount of Rs 60 lakh being demanded by the RTDCL is unilateral and arbitrary inasmuch as the earlier amounts which were deposited qua these very passengers were not refunded by the RTDCL and their bookings had been transferred to the next year. Petitioner`s counsel also submitted that it would not be permissible for the RTDCL to charge further amounts.

Further, it is submitted by the petitioner, that the demand of Rs 60 lakh is not tenable inasmuch as there are various discrepancies and the same is not being reconciled. On the other hand, the counsel on behalf of the RTDCL submitted that the obligation to pay is upon the petitioner and the difference amount has to be deposited, failing which, the RTDCL is entitled to stop the passengers from boarding the train. A perusal of the above payments which are made by the petitioner shows that the said payments were made as far back as in 2019 and additional sums had been deposited in October 2022 and December 2022, the court noted. It further noted, the amount of Rs 60 lakh being demanded at this stage, has not been demanded in writing by the RTDCL. The court also took note of an e-mail which showed that the RTDCL has directed the petitioner to deposit the pending amount under protest or give an undertaking with respect to the amount under protest recording that the same would be deposited after the reconciliation of accounts.

The counsel for the petitioner submits that the condition of giving the undertaking is acceptable to the petitioner and the petitioner is willing to give an undertaking that any amount which may be directed by RTDCL upon reconciliation of the accounts would be deposited by the petitioner.

With inputs from ANI

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