NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
REVISION PETITION NO. 432 OF 1997
(From the order dated 7.6.96 in Appeal No.595/94 & 891/93 of the
of the State Commission, Maharashtra)
Indian Airlines Ltd. .. Petitioner
N.N. Kini & Anr. .. Respondents
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE D.P. WADHWA,PRESIDENT
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE C.L. CHAUDHRY, MEMBER
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J.K. MEHRA, MEMBER
MR. B.K. TAIMNI, MEMBER.
For the Petitioner : Mr. Lalit Bhasin, Ms. Shipra Mathur and
Ms. Jyothi Saigal, Advocates.
For the Respondents : N E M O
DATED THE 10th MAY, 2001
PER JUSTICE D.P. WADHWA (PRESIDENT)
This revision petition has been filed by the Indian Airlines, a statutory corporation constituted under the Air Corporation Act, 1953. It is aggrieved by the judgment of the Maharashtra State Disputes Redressal Commission upholding the order of the Bombay District Forum which directed the petitioner- Airlines to refund the value of the air tickets to the respondent (complainant).
Complainant - first respondent purchased two tickets of Indian Airlines from the second respondent, a travel agent, for Bombay - Calcutta - Bombay sector for himself and his wife in March, 1992. He paid Rs.11,840/- for the two tickets. Complainant and his wife travelled to Calcutta by scheduled flight of the Indian Airlines. For return journey he got both the tickets confirmed for March 30, 1992. On the same day, however, he found that both the tickets were lost. He immediately notified this fact in writing to the Indian Airlines City Office, Calcutta with a view to prevent any possible misuse of the air tickets. A police complaint on the instructions of the Duty Officer of the Indian Airlines was also lodged. Complainant was not issued duplicate tickets in lieu of the lost tickets. He was given two new air tickets though under the same old PNR number. He was, however, required to pay Rs.5,920/- towards these two tickets from Calcutta to Bombay. Indian Airlines refused to refund the amount of the lost tickets. Thus complainant filed a complaint before the District Forum seeking refund of the value of the two tickets which were lost. Complainant also claimed Rs.2500/- towards compensation for loss of time, energy, mental anguish etc.
It was contended by the Indian Airlines that it offers lot of flexibility in re-routing and refund of air tickets to passengers with a view to facilitate them. These tickets have a validity of six months upto which time passengers are allowed the facility of travel/change in itinerary/dates of travel, part reissuance or refund on presentation anywhere in India. It was thus contended it was not possible for the Indian airlines to keep a track of all such transactions. It was difficult for it to check misuse by way of travel/re-routing or refund by the finder of the lost ticket. After considering the rival
contentions District Forum came to the conclusion that the fact of lost ticket was immediately notified to the concerned authorities and thus lost tickets had not been
traced or used for such long period it was appropriate to ask the Indian airlines to refund value of the two tickets to the complainant. District Forum also awarded Rs.500/- to the complainant as compensation and cost of the complaint. Direction was given to the Indian Airlines to comply with the order within three months from the date of receipt of the order or else to pay interest @ 18% per annum.
In appeal by the Indian Airlines the State Commission upheld the order of the District Forum. State Commission noticed that on query made by complainant if the lost tickets had been encashed, Indian Airlines refused to answer the query saying that they were unable to look into such information as they have “big offices”.
Before us Mr. Lalit Bhasin, learned counsel for the Indian Airlines submitted that it was mentioned on the jacket of the ticket that no refund was permissible against lost ticket. He has shown us jacket of a ticket which was prevalent in the year 1992. We find on the cover page in small print it is written: “Ensure safe custody of your ticket. No refund is permissible against lost ticket”.
It was therefore, submitted that it was term of the contract that in case the ticket is lost refund is not permissible. Secondly it was submitted by Mr. Bhasin that under the Regulations framed by the Indian Airlines unless original ticket is produced refund is not permissible. This he said is a statutory regulation and that both the District
Forum and the State Commission were wrong in directing refund of the tickets in the face of the statutory provisions.
Indian Airlines in the exercise of powers conferred upon it by Section 45 of the Air Corporation Act, 1953 framed regulations called the Indian Airlines Cancellation and Refund Regulations (1985) which came into force from 15th September, 1984. There are 21 regulations. For our purpose it would be appropriate to refer to regulations 2 and 8 which are as follows:
2. Cancellation will be acted upon only when the ticket is actually tendred at the booking office for cancellation except in the case of passengers residing outside the Station of emplanement, who may cancel their bookings by letter or telegram but not by telephone. In respect of bookings outside the station of emplanement, confirmation to the requesting station, agent or airline by the station of emplanement shall be deemed to be conformation of passage to the passenger for purposes of calculating the cancellation charges.
8. Refund will be made only against documents surrendered and no claim will be entertained against lost documents”.
In fact, these statutory provisions were not brought to the notice by the Petitioner either before the District Forum or the State Commission.
There is thus statutory bar on the refund of lost tickets. Refund is permissible only if original tickets are produced. In the face of statutory bar we do not think that the District Forum and the State commission were right in directing refund of the lost air tickets.
Before concluding, however, we may observe that the Indian Airlines’ Cancellation and Refund Regulations allowing refund only if the original tickets are
produced would appear to be rather archaic in today’s situation when there is explosion in communication and spread of vast computer net work in the country. It was
submitted that Airlines tickets are not transferable. Airlines cannot get unjust enrichment at the cost of the passenger who lost his ticket and which has not been misused for a long period. Indian Airlines in the present case has fixed validity of air tickets for six months.
But for the statutory regulations we would certainly have struck down the condition that refund is not permissible on a lost ticket for all time. It will certainly appear to be unfair trade practice and condition of no refund in case of loss arbitrary. We are told in the year 1992 a person had no choice except to travel by Indian Airlines. For the present, we are not saying anything on small print which appears on the face of the ticket that no refund is permissible for lost ticket. There are methods even to save any loss that may occasion to Indian Airlines for misuse of the tickets, if any. It is not for us to suggest to the Indian Airlines what method it should adopt for the purpose.
With these observations this petition is allowed and the order of the District forum and State Commission are set aside and the complaint dismissed. There will be no order as to cost.
( J.K. MEHRA )
( B.K. TAIMNI)