Only the Judiciary can implement or enforce Laws and deliver Justice in India

Featured, interview — By on July 8, 2010 at 11:31 am

Question: Appreciate, if you would let us know the latest developments in the commission issue

IAAI has filed a new Writ Petition on 31st May 2010 seeking the Court’s directive to DGCA to compel the Airlines to pay commission as per their Order of 5th March, 2010 and to IATA-India to ensure compliance by its Member Airlines operating in India. The Court has already sent notices to DGCA, MoCA & IATA. To save time, we have avoided the 16 zero airlines.

Question : Heard that certain Industry leaders are terming IAAI as an ‘Association for Court cases’. Is it true? And how do you accept this blame?

Yes. Strangely, we hear some sniggering comments from certain quarters branding IAAI as an Association crazy after writs (!) We accept that IAAI is crazy about writs; but, in the interests of the Travel Agents – and, we succeed.

Actually, we are flattered. There cannot be a better recognition of IAAI’s service than these comments. Further we are happy to note that even DGCA, on 12th May, 2010, in their “comments” to the Competition Authority have quoted Kerala High Court Order, in compliance to which, they declared the ‘Nett fare’ model & Transaction Fee are illegal and Commission is an integral part of the Air Fare. In other words, IAAI has laid a solid foundation for the “fight against zero commission” by these writs. Instead of supporting IAAI, some of the others are just sitting and watching like spectators, enjoying the sorry plight of ordinary Travel Agents and, at the same time, are trying to claim credit on IAAI’s achievements.

While IAAI is moving in the right direction by going through the Courts and accomplishing the target, it is found that a group of vested interests consider IAAI to be a ‘controversial’ Association for approaching the Courts. There IS no controversy.

Question:Do you foresee that the TAAIs case to CCI with the 5 Aviation Herald June 2010 Interview support of your DGCA Order will enforce commission in India ?

Absolutely not. CCI is a quasijudicial and statutory body drawing authority exclusively within the ambit of Competition Act of India. It can only rule on the competitiveness in the Trade and prevent cartelization and monopolization. It cannot enforce commission.

On the contrary, in the Uniglobe Vs TAFI Case of 5th Nov 2009. against suspension of their Membership related to SQ boycott by TAFI, the CCI made an interesting Study whereby Mr. Hariprasad C.G., an Expert of Economic Matters with CCI, reported on 17th December, 2009, that “Service Fees module is better than Commission”.

As a Party referred to in this Case of the SQ boycott, IAAI had made a presentation on 15th April, 2010, by M/s George Tharakan & H. S. Chawla. By submitting the DGCA Order of 5th March, 2010, they proved that TF is ruled out in India and that the protest of the Agents was against the cartelization and monopolization policy adopted by the Airline and not a cartelization on the Agents part.

Globally, it is an Anti-Trust and Competition Law. In Europe it is TFEU ( Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) whereas, in India, there is no Anti-Trust Law but only the Competition Law.

Only the Judiciary can implement or enforce Laws and deliver Justice in India.

But at the same time, we appreciate TAAI for approaching CCI to put an end to certain Airlines attempt for monopolization and cartelization.

Question:What have you achieved through all these court cases?

IAAI has stood firm, circumventing and exposing the dubious plans of the so-cal led Travel Agent Associations with series of writs, winning each time, proving IAAI is has only the interest of the Travel Agents at heart.

In 2002 the APJC-India itself introduced the Rs.20 lakhs Minimum Bank Guarantee and IAAI got a favourable Court verdict as ‘discriminative policy’ which was also upheld  by the TAC3 Commissioner.

· the Oct 2008 Case against NACIL to maintain 5% Commission was lost on NACIL’s affidavit claiming that the other two major Associations have accepted the TF module

· Though agreed, no Associations supported IAAI’s campaign for a Mass Petition to the Lok & Rajya Sabhas and the March to Parliament on 15 Dec 2008

· The Commission issue raised in Parliament by Ms. Brinda Karat on 16th Dec, paved the way for NACIL to reinstate Agency Commission on 26th Dec’08 and DGCA to amend the Tariff Rule on 9th Jan’09

· Led by Ms. Brinda Karat MP, IAAI took all Associations twice to meet Shri. Praful Patel, historically termed as “the only Meetings Agents had with the Civil Aviation Minister on zero commission”, who, on 23rd Jan’09, directed us to DGCA to sort out the issue

This shows that our position had always been right and lawful. Apparently, defeatist attitude of other associations has brought doom, dismay and disaster to Travel Agents.

Question: What prompted you to go to the Courts at all ?

Oh! There were many reasons. On 14th Aug’08, when Agents all over India closed offices in solidarity to fight against Zero commission, IAAI stood for “commission” whereas others opted for “Transaction Fee”. The surrender of the Karnataka Case, acceptance of TF Module, submission to the 3% Commission offer from 9W & IT, the pro-airline and anti-agent attitude of the Agents Representatives in APJC-India and their Associations forced IAAI to fight alone for the welfare of the Fraternity.

The vested interests’ misguided and misinterpreted IATA Resolutions & National Law to confuse the Agents Fraternity preventing them from realizing the TRUTH or apprehending the FACTS.

Question: You have mentioned APJC? How are they responsible?

APJC-India was constituted solely to regulate and oversee the affairs of the Indian Travel Industry. Travel Agency Commissioners TWICE pointed out that APJC-India had over stepped its authority. Though the DGCA Order was passed on 5th March’10, even in the 19th April Meeting, APJC-India did not review or assess the PSA Agreement vis-àvis this Order or the local requirements. All they did was to just hand over a copy of the Order to IATA with a statement that ‘Commission’ cannot be discussed by APJC.

The 16 foreign airlines are aiming on “consolidation, cartelization and monopolization”, advising ordinary Agents to make alliances or mergers if they want to survive. Their business tactic is to discriminate, divide and spl i t the Associations and Agents Fraternity. And their weapons are too dangerous – GDS Abuse, TAP, weekly BSP payments, phasing out of Insurance Guarantee etc

The dominating 4 ‘zero’ airlines, along with the indifferent Agents Representatives in APJC, will totally wipe out “ordinary travel agents”. None of the Agents representatives till not questioned these airlines creditability to be a part of such a ‘decision making body’ .On the contrary, they are more comfortable with the anti-trust & competition law.

Question: Since the whole Fraternity is being affected, are you not expecting support from the other Associations?

When IAAI was favoured with a DGCA Order on 5th March, we had requested the other Associations for a joint Meeting at COK with our Legal Counsel to discus and formulate future plans. Instead of accepting IAAI’s invitation, they held a separate meeting at BOM. When IAAI demanded status quo at 5% commission, others star ted muddling the issue. Even as Petitioners, nobody supported IAAI to negotiate the quantum of Commission with the Airlines.

The Government has also not taken any action against the Airlines for not complying with the Rules though there are strict Penalties laid out for the wrong-doers.

IAAI shows no distinction between small, medium or large Agents and fights for everyone’s cause. And we succeeded in establishing

Ø Commission as our legitimate right

Ø Commission is a part of ‘Tariff”

Ø Commission cannot be replaced with Transaction fee

Ø ‘Zero’ Commission and Nett fare models are not as per Law.

If all Associations and the Agents were supporting us in this ‘real cause”, the issue could have been sorted out much earlier. However, we will not give up our attempts to bring about UNITY in the industry as this the only way for the Agents to survive.

Question: Then, how do you propose to meet the challenges?

IAAI tried all means – moral, social, Political and legal. Conducted Public meetings, Dharnas, rallies, representations through MPs of the Congress & CPI (M) Parties and through Cabinet Ministers. Though DGCA & MoCA held meetings twice, only through a “Contempt of Court” did DGCA issue an Order. Though an Order was issued, its execution was sabotaged by certain vested interests.

When there is no support from the other Partner Associations or the Fraternity and the Government remains inactive, is there any other way for IAAI to solve the issues but by appealing to the Courts? Today the need of the hour is to execute, implement and enforce the Law. For the Agents survival and welfare, we presently do not have any option other than a Judicial intervention.

Question: So, what are your plans now?

All our problems could have been easily solved by APJC India or if all associations had fought together. As long as this is not possible, the only alternative is that all IATA Travel Agents stand together with IAAI and fight relentlessly, be it writ or civil suits if these are the only alternatives

Though IAAI has such a high success rate in solving the Fraternity’s problems, it is indeed very sad that the Fraternity has not reciprocated and supported the Association in any of its endeavors. Nevertheless, strong in its convictions and true to its Vision & Mission, come what may, IAAI will march on against all odds.

Question: Any message to the Fraternity?

IAAI stands firm for commission and there is no compromise on this issue. We need your unqualified support if all of us are to survive. Primary danger is under our own roof and not next door.

We are totally transparent. If the Agents Fraternity truly understands the gravity of the situation and trust in us, we request their wholehearted support.

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