The Delhi High Court has ruled that the businesses and operation of website and mobile app Rail Yatri are unauthorized and impermissible. The travel app, which provides comprehensive information about train bookings, routes and platforms details, is backed by Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani, along with Omidyar Network, Helion Ventures, and other well-known angel investors.
The Delhi High Court had dismissed the writ petitions filed by Stelling Technologies, which owns and manages the online portal 'railyatri.in', reported news agency IANS.
In its judgement today, the Delhi High Court noted IRCTC counsel's contention that if such activities are not controlled, huge amounts of public money would be susceptible to being siphoned or misappropriated. The court said Stelling can carry out its business only by fulfilling the IRCTC's conditions.
The IRCTC advocate said that an estimate of 6.8 lakh e-tickets are booked through IRCTC's systems every day with the total amount in circulation being Rs 81.60 crore.
The court decision comes after Indian Railway Catering and Tourist Corporation (IRCTC) filed a complain with the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Railways and Crime, Delhi in 2017, alleging that RailYatri was provided illegal bookings and meals on trains.
What is exactly the RailYatri case?
In the initial days of online train bookings, IRCTC held monopoly on issuing railway e-tickets. However, when the demand grew, the IRCTC floated various schemes for online ticket sale. Under one scheme, IRCTC appointed several Principal Service Providers (PSPs) for booking railway tickets on its website. In this process, each PSPs, in turn, had several hundred agents working under it as Retail Service Providers (RSPs). These RSPs were provided with a unique identification number to access IRCTC. And, all these entities were bounded by the IRCTC rules,and were asked to pay fees for integration and management.
In its complaint, the IRCTC accused RailYatri of violating the rules as it is not registered as a PSP or RSP. IRCTC has already deactivated the access credentials of the RSPs associated with RailYatri to its site.
"Nikhil Majithia, advocate for IRCTC, contended before the court that according to the IRCTC, the services by RailYatri were unauthorized, and the RSPs, by associating with it, had violated their contractual terms with IRCTC," IANS reported.
The customers who used Rail Yatri were directed to an RSP. And thereafter, an e-ticket could be booked using authorised booking credential through IRCTC's booking engine. For this, the RailYatri charged a nominal "market access fee" on the tickets.
Problems arose when the Railway Police received a complaint that RailYatri was carrying illegal bookings. One of the complainants allegedly claimed he did not receive any refund upon cancellation of a ticket. Subsequently, IRCTC sent a notice to RailYatri and ordered it to stop booking e-tickets and stop directing passengers to the RSPs.