Punjab travel agents challenge regulatory provisions’ validity

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday plea by a group of Punjab-based travel agents challenging the validity of the Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012 and its rules.

The provisions are allegedly being taken recourse to by the Punjab government to fetter these agents’ business activities to curb human trafficking.

An apex court vacation bench of Justice Arun Mishra on Wednesday agreed to hear the challenge to the constitutional validity of these provisions after senior counsel R.K. Kapoor mentioned the plea before the court.

The petitioners have challenged the provision of the Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012 and Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Rules 2013 which mandates that all those in the business of travel agents, consultancy or ticketing will have to get themselves registered upon the payment of licence fee of Rs. one lakh — for those who are in trade for over five years, and Rs. 25,000 — who are in the trade for less than five years.

The proprietors of travel companies have also challenged the provision which says that at the time of seeking licence they should not be involved in any crime as per the police records.

As a deterrence, the law says that any travel agent who contravenes with the provision of the Act or Rules thereof or keeps or uses devices for human trafficking would be punished with an imprisonment not less than three years which may extend to seven years and invite a fine up to Rs. five lakhs.

The travel agents are also aggrieved with the provision which says that every month they must provide to the competent authority, the details of their clients to whom they have rendered services and fee charged from them.

The copy of the same is expected to be supplied to the Punjab government.

Yet another grouse of the travel agents is the provision, requiring them to have an office measuring 15 X 20 ft.

The petitioner tour operators have contended that provision of the Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012 violated their fundamental right to equality (Article 14), to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business (Article 19 (1)(g) and Protection of life and personal liberty (Article 21)).

The petitioners have also challenged the The Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Rules, 2013.

The Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012 was originally enacted as Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012 but was renamed subsequently in its present form.

The travel agents have contended that the objects and reasons of the Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012 says that it was aimed to curb illegal and fraudulent activities of the people involved in organised human smuggling.

They wondered how the objects of the law were sought to be achieved by regulating the profession of the travel agents who have got nothing to do with illegal activities sought to be curbed under the statute.

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