On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the order of the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which upheld the order of the State Commission and District Forum directing Air India to pay a passenger who lost his luggage during travel Rs2.03 lakh in compensation.
The division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Rajesh Bindal, dismissing Air India’s appeal against the NCDRC’s order, stated:
“In light of the particular facts and circumstances of this case, we are not inclined to overturn the challenged order under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.”
The NCDRC rejected Air India’s appeal on February 7, 2023, and ordered the airline to pay the remaining 50% of Rs2.03 lakh in compensation to the missing luggage claimant. Previously, the NCDRC had granted a stay and ordered Air India to deposit fifty per cent of the prize awarded by the district forum, which was subsequently upheld by the state forum. Since the carrier had already deposited fifty per cent of the compensation amount, the NCDRC later directed payment of the remaining balance to the Complainant.
Tushar Kothari complained that one of his bags was lost during his flight from Nagpur to Goa on an Air India flight. The district and state commissions sided with the plaintiff and ordered Air India to compensate the passenger.
The Complainant and family members had purchased Air India tickets to attend a wedding in Goa, with a stopover in Mumbai, departing from Nagpur. Before issuing boarding permits, the airline inspected sixteen bags belonging to Mr Kothari and his family. However, only 15 bags were received at their destination, as one bag had been lost during the voyage.
Despite assuring the passenger that it would seek the bag, the airline needed help to locate it.
Air India instead offered the Complainant Rs3,600 in compensation, which was calculated at Rs450 per kilogramme for the lost luggage.
Subsequently, the Complainant approached the district forum alleging service deficiency on the part of the airline and requesting compensation of approximately 2 lakhs in addition to compensation for mental anguish and litigation expenses. The Complainant produced receipts totalling Rs2.03 lakh for items purchased for the wedding and stowed in the missing bag.
Following the provisions of the Citizens Charter/Contract of Carriage Rule 1972 on Domestic Travel & Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (Ministry of Civil Aviation), Air India argued that the Complainant was required to declare the value of the items in the lost luggage.
The district forum found the airline liable for inadequate service and ordered compensation to be paid. This was subsequently confirmed by both the state and national forums. Later, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the NCDRC’s ruling.
Case Title: Air India Ltd. & Anr.