NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION

NEW DELLH

 

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

             Vs.

N.N. Kini &   Anr.                                                                                          ..    Respondents                                                                  

 

BEFORE:

 

            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

 

ORDER

 

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).

                       

 

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                        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

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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

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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

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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.

                                                                                                (D.P. WADHWA)

                                                                                                   PRESIDENT

 

                                                                                                ……………………………..J.

                                                                                                (C.L. CHAUDHRY)

                                                                                                    MEMBER

 

                                                                                                ……………………………..J.

                                                                                                ( J.K. MEHRA )

                                                                                                    MEMBER

 

 

………………………………

                                                                                                ( B.K. TAIMNI)

                                                                                                MEMBER