CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL FORUM-VI (DISTT. NEW DELHI), ‘M’ BLOCK, 1STFLOOR, VIKAS BHAWAN, I.P.ESTATE, NEW DELHI-110001.
In the matter of:
DR.P.K. AGRAWAL, Delhi ………………COMPLAINANT
MANAGING DIRECTOR, AIR INDIA
NATIONAL AVIATION COMPANY OF INDIA LTD.
NEW DELHI-110001. ………. OPPOSITE PARTY
President : Sh. C.K. Chaturvedi
The complainant, a senior citizen and a senior retired IAS officer of the rank of Addl. Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal, has been forced to land himself in a consumer dispute with opposite Airline, over callous, insensitive and non-co-operative attitude, misbehaviour and negligence of its ground staff which he encountered, leading to harassment and loss to the complainant,in a short journey he took on 11th March, 2011, with his wife from Delhi to Kolkata. He is in dispute with OP on claim and quantum of adequate compensation, for imperfect services.
In short his case is that on 11th March, 2011, he firstly encountered delay of 40 minutes in getting the boarding pass for flight to Kolkata. The lady at Boarding Pass Counter, was either trainee or inexperienced, without a senior at the desk, as she took 40 minutes for the job. She further gave Domestic ‘D’ marked Boarding Pass for the International Flight Ai 022 due to which security staff did not allow the complainant to proceed and returned them to different international terminal gate, adding to further delay. The plane was delayed by 45 minutes due to technical snag. The plane was changed with change of gate, causing unnecessary inconvenience to them. It is stated that when they reached Kolkata at 10.50 P.M., they did not find any staff at arrival desk, to help them with enquiries, about the tracing of luggage. They found the luggage missing with no help. His two bags did not reach, which contained valuables, cash, jewellery, documents for a meeting and cloths etc. He made formal complaint, on which one lady Sonali and one gentleman Md. Shah Nawaz Khan arrived at desk, misbehaved and rudely treated the complainant. They were stranded at Airport without necessaries and tolled to shop at Airport, went out at night to shop for necessaries, but did not find any shop open and could not sleep due to trauma and shock and anxiety of missing luggage. They purchased nigh suit, sleeper and other things on 12th March. They contacted Lost Luggage Station at Kolkata, met Duty Manager at Chittaranjan Avenue office, only to get further harassment but got no clue to the luggage. They contacted Delhi Office, for return of goods till 13.3.2011 when he left back for Delhi. He could not properly hold the meeting without documents. He served a complaint to Managing Director & Chairman, Air India on 15.3.2011 about the facts, and non-delivery of luggage till 14.3.2011, though on morning of 14.3.2011, he came to know that luggage had been traced in Kolkata and thereafter took legal action by moving consumer court. He was delivered the lost baggage on 15th at Delhi. On June 7, 2011 he received a reply to legal notice from a counsel of OP, showing no regrets, but questioning him on harassment and deficiency in service by staff, denying all allegation and accusing him of an attempt to extract undue monetary benefits etc. etc. Thereafter this complaint for harassment, compensation has been filed to which OP filed a written reply in a routine manner generally denying all allegations, facts, rude behaviour, delay etc., except admitting the facts of travel and missing of goods.
We have summarily heard the complainant, in the light of reply of OP, affidavits, the documents annexed 1 to 8 with the complaint and other material placed on record. The OP after filing written reply preferred to hide itself from the court hearing and arguments. we have noted the personal submissions of the complainant who, is now also an Advocate.
The reply of the OP blames him for keeping cash, jewellery and documents in the luggage. That is not relevant now as the bags have been traced and there is no complaint of any missing articles. The whole case of the complainant is about the callousness and insensitivities to duties of OP’s staff at Delhi and Kolkata Airport. He has, in the complaint, also cited similar situation faced by an MP of Delhi and two – three other passengers. The OP is a Govt. Corporation and, in fact, showcase glimpse of India’s governance, to all who interferance with Government Airlines on arrival in India, or local tourist, availing its services. It is common knowledge that attitude apathy and insensitivity of the government functionaries, in performance of their assigned duties is writ large and facts disclose that OP is no exception. The ground staff of OP should never be wanting in extending warm helping hand to its passengers, whether, it is a public holiday or not. The complainant has rightly pleaded in his complaint that there is implied obligation on service providers. Here what we note is that, senior staff at Delhi Airport, left the boarding pass functionaries to an inexperienced official who took 40 minutes to issue a boarding pass. She again issued it wrongly. The wait of 40 minutes for getting a Boarding Pass is excureating agony to the hilt and grave imperfection. The change of plane, change of gate, directing from International flight to Domestic boarding etc., was uncondonable wrong in public service. The delay may be beyond control, but no assistance to travel at arrival desk at night in Kolkata has not been explained nor the unexpected. The reply of two officials mentioned in legal notice and in the complaint.
The saddest part of the ordeal is that complainant could not be given his luggage till he commenced his return journey. His mental agony till 15th, every hour, every minutes, can only be imagined but is of no concern for the OP as shown in the written reply and reply to legal notice. The level of insensitivity in contesting such cases of no defence in Consumer Court, rather than a straight regret, and offer for suitable compensation to assuage the hurt emotions, physical suffering, is shameful, to the least. During the submissions, we have come across a letter dated 9.7.2011 written by Op to Dy. General Manager, Airport Authorities of India, Kolkata, with reference to the AAI letter of 7.7.2011. This letter of Air India states that the missing baggage was located at Delhi, showing that luggage was left behind at Air India Office at Delhi Airport, by the gross negligence of staff at Airport. The letter further shows that it was sent to Kolkata on 13.3.2011, when complainant had already left Kolkata. The baggage again travelled to Delhi on 14.3.2011, which he got on 15th March, 2011. The complainant has pleaded and argued that all through, he was given impression that luggage was traced at Kolkata, which was factually incorrect. The OP and other should know that public governance itself does not go on holiday, because of public holiday. The accountability of General Manager ( OP airlines) of OP at Kolkata and Delhi – continues unabated in service sector organisation.
We cannot, but, entirely agree with the pleading and submissions made towards gross violation by OP to complainants at every place and dealings. We can neither shut our eyes, nor fail to invite attention of OP to malfeasance of public functionaries, in discharge of their duties, by public servants of statutory bodies or corporations, as held by Hon’ble Supreme Court in Lucknow Development Authority vs. M.K. Gupta case. It is obvious that the insensitive and negligent functioning of staff of Air India at Delhi and unconcerned attitude of staff of Kolkata, is only due to lack of supervision by superior officers of staff. The Hon’ble Supreme Court directed in the Lucknow Development Authority case directing compensation from the salaries of its defaulting functionaries.
Now, coming to the compensation part, it is admitted by OP that complainant was travelling with his wife, and had booked 3 baggages, out of which two did not reach the destination. These contained ladies dress, his own belongings, his manuscript and documents. The complainant and his wife had to purchase necessary wearing apparel and other necessaries, for which has placed on record the copies of bills, totaling to Rs.14,776/-. He is entitled to this loss. He has also claimed refund of air fare and train fare. This is not tenable. We have considered the harassment by inefficient service to couple at Delhi Airport, harassment by Kolkata staff, in not giving helping hand and rather treating him with rude behavior, harassment of his going out at night to purchase things, harassment needing to go to city office at Chittranjan Avenue to locate goods, taking up matter with authorities on phone in Delhi and Kolkata, mental agony for waiting with cross fingers for locating the above luggage. We weigh all these harassments including facing humiliation at the meeting by not having proper documents, at Rs.50,000/- together for both. The missing of baggage was due to total negligence at Delhi Airport, on the part of its ground staff responsible for booking for which punitive damages are awarded to make OP staff learn a lesson.
We award punitive damage of Rs.25,000/- on Delhi staff for not taking care to see that luggage is loaded. We award punitive damage of Rs.10,000/- for callous attitude of staff at Kolkata Airport for not properly helping out the complainants. We award litigation expenses of Rs.20,000/- inclusive of legal notice etc. In keeping with the law laid down by Apex court mentioned above, the OP is directed to place a report before the court, after investigation of role of Delhi and Kolkata staff in not doing their jobs properly and recover the sum of Rs.5,000/- awarded above from salaries of responsible officials, and submit an action taken report in 3 months. It is directed that Rs.10,000/- out of punitive compensation of Rs.15,000/- awarded, will be deposited in State Consumer Fund and remaining Rs.10,000/- will be paid to the complainant No.1. OP is directed to pay Rs.94,776/- which is rounded to Rs.95,000/- to complainant No.1 within 30 days and balance Rs.10,000/- within 60 days after the same is received from the salaries of concerned staff of supervising officers.
Reproduced under Section 52(q)(iv) of Indian Copyright Act 1957)