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No Contractual obligation on the Airlines to escort every passenger to the boarding gate after issui

THE BRANCH MANAGER, INDIGO AIRLINES, KOLKATA & ANR. v. KALPANA RANI DEBBARMA & ORS., CIVIL APPEAL NOS…778­779/2020 (arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 28600­28601 OF 2018)  – January 28, 2020.

CORAM: Two judge bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari

The respondent who booked air tickets in Indigo Airlines was left behind by the appellant-Airlines even though the boarding passes were issued. Even the request for accommodation in the next available flight was turned down by the appellant. Due to this the respondent had to incur a huge monetary loss. When the legal notice sent by the respondent through his advocate demanding compensation was unanswered, he filed a complaint before the District Forum. The forum awarded compensation to respondent after analyzing the situation. The appellants carried the matter to the State Commission which affirmed the findings of the District Forum. Aggrieved by this decision appeal was made to the national commission. This also affirmed the findings of the two consumer fora. Thus the case reached this court.

The appellant counsel argued that the three consumer fora have failed to consider the principles of pleadings and burden of proof. It was argued that the deficiency in service must be related to contractual obligation and not based on sympathy. Ravneet Singh Bagga vs. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines & Anr was quoted to urge that the respondents had failed to prove some fault, imperfection, short coming. The appellants aggrieved that the consumer fore have committed jurisdictional error in not considering the fact. Thus the counsel concluded that the burden of proof was wrongly shifted on the appellants.

The counsel for the respondents supported the findings and conclusions of the consumer fora. The judgments Finnair Oyj v. Timy Lassooy and Denise McDonagh vs. Ryanair Ltd were quoted supporting their argument.

After hearing both the counsels of the case the court observed several things. The expression ‘deficiency in service’ is defined in S.2(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act. Also paragraph 6 of Ravneet Singh Bagga (supra) was noted down by this court. The court considered this complaint should not proceed for want of material facts constituting deficiency in service. Also just because the respondents were not accommodated in the next flight does not constitute deficiency in service. This court declared that the appellants are liable only to refund the Government and airport fees and not liable for loss caused to the passengers. Also paragraph 31 of N. Satchidanand (supra) was referred by this court. This court is of the opinion that the approach of the consumer fora is in complete disregard of the principle of pleadings and burden of proof.

The Manager, Southern Region, Air India, Madras & Ors. v. V. Krishnaswamy,  Ruby (Chandra) Dutta vs. United India Insurance Co. Ltd.,  Dr. Bikas Roy & Anr. vs Interglobe Aviation Ltd. (IndiGo),  Joint Action Committee of Airlines Pilots’ Association of India & Ors. vs. the Director General of Civil Aviation & Ors were referred by this honorable court.

Thus from the above observations the court decided that the judgments and orders passes by the District Forum, the State Commission and the National Commission cannot be sustained and should be set aside. Also the complaint of the respondent stands dismissed. Thus the appeals are allowed with no order cost.




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