New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice and sought reply from the Union ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) and directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) on a petition seeking airlines, both domestic and international, to refund the full amount of the tickets in relation to all flights cancelled due to the nationwide lockdown.

A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices SK Kaul and BR Gavai, while hearing the matter through video conferencing, making an oral observation said that the non-refund on the tickets booked for air travel after lockdown was "arbitrary."

The plea has been moved by Pravasi Legal Cell through advocate Jose Abraham. The plea urged the top court to declare non-refund of the amount of tickets by airlines as illegal and violative of the civil aviation requirement issued by the DGCA. The petitioner contended that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.

The plea cited the MoCA April 16 office memorandum, which directed all airline operators to refund the full amount collected for all tickets booked during the first phase of the lockdown period, from March 25 to April 14, for domestic and international air travel.

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The MCA memorandum said if a passenger seeks refund during the first lockdown phase for travel during the second lockdown period (from April 15 to May 3), still the airline has to refund the full amount without levying any cancellation charges.

The plea contended that the office memorandum leaves out the vast majority of passengers who had booked tickets before the flight operations were banned, and thus indirectly approves the practice of the airlines providing a credit shell for booking affected before the lockdown, though the same clearly violates the refund rules of the DGCA.

However, the petitioner cites the government directive only that orders the airlines to refund those tickets, which were booked during the lockdown period and leaves out passengers who booked tickets before the restrictions were placed.