The luxury tourist train Maharaja Express will now be solely owned and maintained by the Indian Railways, ruled the Delhi High Court setting aside its earlier order where UK's Cox & Kings (C&K) was allowed to do that jointly with the railways.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Siddharth Mridul set aside the court's single-judge bench order, saying it is of "prima facie view" that the interim arrangement was not justified and legally sustainable.
"This is the prima facie view we hold, (that) it is difficult to make interim arrangement and pass an order in the nature of mandatory injunction directing continuation of the earlier arrangement which has been terminated by IRCTC. After all, it is to be borne in mind that the IRCTC is the absolute owner of the train in question and the said train belongs exclusively to IRCTC," the division bench observed.
The court also brushed aside the Cox & Kings (C&K) counsel argument that it should be allowed to run the train jointly with Indian Railway catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd as the train had earned worldwide reputation due to the efforts of the travel agency.
"Maharaja Express has earned worldwide name and is one of the premier luxury trains in the world tourism. No doubt, that is true. However, that would not mean that C&K has acquired indefeasible right to run this train. Purpose can be served if the train runs as usual but by the IRCTC on its own or with the aid and addition of some other party," the court added.
The bench made these observations while hearing a plea by IRCTC against the high court's earlier order directing that the train be run from September 14, 2011 till December 31, 2011 as per arrangement agreed to between the parties.
IRCTC in 2006 had formed a joint venture (JV) with C&K, in the name of Royale India Rail Tours Limited to operate the Maharaja Express.
From April 2011 onwards, differences began cropping up between the two entities, prompting IRCTC to enter into a treaty with the Indian Railways to maintain the train, a move described by C&K as a ploy to throw it out of the venture.
According to C&K, the IRCTC's draft treaty with Indian Railways was proposed to change all the agreed terms between the parties and would override all agreements between them.
Eventually, it resulted in IRCTC terminating its JV deal between the two on August 12, 2011, prompting the C&K to move the high court against the IRCTC decision.
The high court had passed interim orders to maintain status quo and run the train jointly. The high court order, in turn, had been challenged by the IRCTC.
With PTI inputs