Unchartered Ocean of Policy Decision I / The Revival of Ray XIII


For Muslims, place of birth of Hazrat Muhammed, i.e. Saudi Arabia, is the most sacred place. Visiting that place is pilgrimage for Muslim community, which is known as performing ‘Haj’. It is the desire of every person of Muslim faith, living anywhere in this world, to visit Saudi Arabia for performing Haj. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has regulated and restricted, in public interest and for the safety of the pilgrims themselves, the number of persons who can visit Saudi Arabia and perform Haj, from time to time. In the process, number of persons from each country to visit Saudi Arabia has also been restricted. Towards this end, a bilateral agreement is signed between Government of India and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Based on such a bilateral agreement, Government of India also formulates its Haj Policy for smooth operations, particularly keeping in mind the interest of these pilgrims. It has been noticed, PTOs/HGOs normally feel aggrieved by one or the other conditions for registrations in such Haj Policies. Similar kind of dispute has now arisen in respect of HGOs Policy 2019- 2023, ‘Policy for Haj Group Organizers for Haj 2019-23’.

It is settled law, policy decisions of Executive are best left to it and a Court cannot be propelled into the ‘unchartered ocean’ of Government policy [Bennett Coleman, (1972) 2 SCC 788]. It is a well accepted principle, in complex social, economic and commercial matters, decisions have to be taken by Governmental Authorities keeping in view several factors and it is not possible for Courts to consider competing claims and to conclude which way the balance tilts. Courts are ill-equipped to substitute their decisions. It is not within the realm of Courts to go into the issue as to whether there could have been a better policy and on that parameters, direct Executive to formulate, change, vary and/or modify the policy which appears better to Court. Such an exercise is impermissible in policy matters. In Bennett Coleman’s case, Court explained this principle. The scope of judicial review is very limited in such matters. It is only when a particular policy decision is found to be against a statute or it offends any of the provisions of the Constitution or it is manifestly arbitrary, capricious or mala fide, Court would interfere with such policy decisions. No such case is made out.”

Hon’ble Justice A.K. Sikri, Federation Haj PTOs of India v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 4 of 2019].