Holding that state enterprise Indian Rail Tour Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is the “absolute owner” of the luxury tourist train Maharaja Express, the Delhi High Court bench comprising of acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Siddharth Mridul set aside its interim order to IRCTC to run this service jointly with Cox & Kings.
The argument put by the Cox & Kings counsel that the worldwide repute earned by the Maharajas Express is due to the marketing effort of the travel agency was set aside by the bench of the court. The bench observed that the fact that the train has earned worldwide acclaim and that it is one of the premier luxury trains in the world, though true, does not give Cox & Kings the indefeasible right to run Maharajas Express.
Earlier the train was being operated by the Royale India Tour Ltd (RIRTL), a joint venture between Cox and Kings, India, and IRCTC. Whereas the train Maharajas Express was owned by the IRCTC, Cox in Kings was the operator of the rail tours as per the agreement. Recently IRCTC annulled the agreement due to the nonpayment of the haulage charge which was contested by Cox and Kings.
However, the bench of the High Court also observed that for bookings made for the train journeys beyond December 2011, IRCTC will take over those bookings from Cox & Kings and will ensure that the train would complete the season, albeit under the supervision of IRCTC to ensure that the third party interest is also not going to suffer.