The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Central government on a plea filed by Air Passengers Association of India seeking a refund on air ticket for flights canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

A bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MR Shah issued notice to the Centre and others and tagged it with a similar plea pending before the court.

The petition, filed by the Air Passenger Association of India, has been tagged with similar pleas filed by Pravasi Legal Cell and Travel Agents Federations of India.

“It is submitted that the airlines are illegally imposing the mechanism of ”credit shell” on the unwilling passengers. The concept refers to a form of credit note which can be used to make a new booking with the same airline for a period so provided by the airline, usually of one year, as is being offered by most of the airlines,” said the plea, filed through advocate Rohit Rathi.

The apex court bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, also sought a reply from all the respondents in the case.

On 12 June, the apex court bench had asked the Centre and airlines to file a reply on the issue within three weeks. The bench had also proposed that airlines provide a credit shell with a two-year validity against flight bookings that were canceled during the lockdown.

The apex court had also directed the civil aviation ministry to schedule a meeting with airlines and devise modalities to make refunds to passengers. The court said all airlines will be heard as parties to this plea.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the carriers, had submitted, “airlines have suffered a hit of 60 billion dollar globally due to pandemic” and that 49% flying cost is fixed. He added that airlines have had zero revenue during the lockdown.

The petition, filed by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell, said non-refund of the amount of the tickets by airlines was illegal and violated the requirements issued by the DGCA.

The petitioner argued that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.