NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
FIRST APPEAL NO. 7 OF 2007
(Against the order dated 03-11-2006 in Complaint Case No.C-150 of 1996 of the State Commission, Delhi)
Indian Airlines Ltd.
Commercial Dept., I.G.I. Airport
TR-I, New Delhi- 1100037 ……….Appellant
M/s. Advance Laser Systems Ltd.
Regd. Office At 36/B, Sector –V
Faridabad (Haryana) ………Respondent
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE V.R. KINGAONKAR,
HON’BLE MR. VINAY KUMAR, MEMBER
For the Appellants : Mr.Mudit Sharma , Advocate
For the Respondents : NEMO
PRONOUNCED ON: 23-11-2011
PER MR.VINAY KUMAR, MEMBER
1. The Indian Airlines Ltd (hereinafter referred to as IAL) has filed this appeal against the order of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Delhi in Consumer Complaint Case No. C-150/96. In the impugned order, the complaint of M/S Advance Laser System Pvt. Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as ALS) has been allowed and the appellant directed to pay a compensation of Rs.10,000/- to the complainant.
2. To revisit the facts in very brief, Mr. Sudhir Pal, MD of the ALS was scheduled to attend an important business engagement at Aurangabad on 6.1.1996. For this, he was booked to travel by flight number IC-491 of the appellant/IAL. Allegedly, he arrived at Delhi airport sufficiently in time for the flight departing at 7:15 AM. But, he was prevented from taking the flight on the ground that he was carrying a laser equipment, which could not be permitted to be carried on the flight. He had to cancel his flight at 6:15 AM which resulted in loss of the business opportunity for which he claimed rupees 10 Lakh, in addition to a compensation of rupees one lakh for the mental agony and harassment undergone by him.
3. From a perusal of the complaint petition and the affidavit of Mr. Sudhir Pal we find that his baggage was x-rayed at the airport. He was carrying a medical laser equipment and the promotional literature for it, in two hand bags. He was informed by one official (named in the complaint as Mr. Nijhawan of the IAL) that “ he could not be allowed to board the flight with the Medical laser equipments.” His offer to demonstrate how it functioned and his argument that it was not a security hazard, were rejected by this official. He therefore, had to cancel his tickets, as he would have got no refund after the departure of the flight.
4. On the other hand, the response and the affidavit of the IAL before the State Commission show that that there was no employee with the name mentioned by the complainant, on duty at Delhi airport. Nor was there any employee of this name in the Airline security at this airport. However, according to the appellant, the anti-hijacking police at the airport had apparently “stopped Mr. Sudhir from carrying the laser electronic equipment by hand.” Further, as per the affidavit of the IAL, “carrying of laser equipment with battery in the Aircraft is prohibited.” It is also informed that no boarding card was issued to him.
5. From the above, it is clear that the passenger was attempting to carry a ready-to-use laser equipment as part of his hand baggage in the flight to Aurangabad. He was prevented from doing so and eventually had to return his ticket, without being able to take the flight. The State Commission came to the conclusion that “At the most it is a case of a little longer detention of passenger for the purpose of verification of the nature of equipment he was carrying with him which, as per law, was not permissible.” In such a case, the complainant could have offered to carry the equipment in his checked-in baggage, after removing the batteries. There is however, nothing on record to show that the complainant offered to do so and yet was prevented from taking the flight.
6. We have perused the records and heard the counsel for the appellant. As for the respondent/complainant, he remained un-represented till the end of these proceedings, despite repeated service of notice on him. The learned counsel for IAL stressed that the above measure was necessary in the interest of flight and passengers safety. Therefore, the act of not permitting the passenger to take the flight, with the equipment as hand baggage, does not amount to any deficiency on the part of the appellant. In so far as the case of the respondent/complainant is concerned, what the passenger was seeking to carry with him was a mere medical equipment, which did not constitute any threat or risk to security of the flight. We are unable to appreciate this as, what is important is the fact that a ready-to-use, battery operated laser equipment was not permissible to be carried in the flight as hand baggage. As this was a security requirement, it needed to be observed. The perception of the passenger as to the security implications of the material/equipment carried by him, is not of any importance or relevance.
7. However, the case of the complainant is not limited to his being disallowed to take the flight along with the equipment. There is a further allegation of unjustifiable detention for about three hours. On this point it is significant to note that the complainant claims to have cancelled his ticket at 6.15 AM. The IAL records show the time of cancellation as 5.57 AM. As for the allegation, the AIL has categorically denied that the complainant was detained by Mr. Nijhawan for another three hours thereafter, stating that there was no such person representing IAL in any capacity. In the face of such categorical denial, the absence of any evidence in support of this allegation of the complainant, necessarily results in rejection of the allegation as not proved. In any case, it does not stand to reason why any official, concerned with flight safety, should hold on to the equipment even after the passenger has cancelled the ticket. We therefore, do not agree with the State Commission that the complainant needs to be compensated for the mental harassment and agony undergone due to such detention.
8. For the reasons above, the appeal is allowed and the impugned order is set aside. Consequently, the Complaint stands dismissed. The parties shall bear their own costs.