A plea was today filed in Delhi High Court seeking direction to conduct immediate nationwide investigation on catering firms running contracts in Indian Railways, alleging they were over-charging passengers and flouting directions of the Railway Ministry.
A doctor in his petition before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath alleged that the catering companies for Indian Railways were charging arbitrarily and not complying with the rates prescribed in the circular issued by the Ministry of Railways, to the prejudice of the common passengers who were being over charged.
The court has fixed hearing on the public interest litigation (PIL) on November 18.
Doctor Sanjay Gupta, in his PIL, said exorbitant rates were being charged for food and beverage items on trains by the caterers.
“The money involved could be in thousands of crores, once the matter is investigated. Since the catering companies are not issuing bills to the buyers, there is bound to be tax evasion by the companies, depriving the exchequer of valuable tax.
“The receipts issued by the caterers in different trains are in similar layout and printing, indicating that most caterers are common or have formed a cartel,” the PIL said.
The petitioner said that in 2012, Indian Railways had released an elaborate circular pertaining to catering services and prices. “The circular also stated categorically that under no circumstances, the railway should charge different rates as rates of these items are determined at the Railway Board level,” he said.
The petitioner also urged the court to see whether the caterers were complying with the circular, whether they issued bills of food items sold by them to on-board passengers and were paying all applicable taxes on the entire sales made by them on the trains.
He said that while undertaking railway journeys, he found that caterers were not charging uniform rates prescribed by the Indian Railways, which was “totally arbitrary and in flagrant violation of the said circular”.
While seeking action against officials and the catering companies, the plea said that the Indian Railways have “not bothered to rectify the procedure resulting in routine loss to the citizen and to the exchequer”.
The plea also sought direction to the Railway Ministry to “initiate awareness programme for the passengers”.