SC: A Consumer cannot be extricated from his obligations under contract

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 28th January 2020, in the matter of The Branch Manager, Indigo Airlines, Kolkata & Anr. v. Kalpana Rani Debbarma & Ors. pronounced that no doubt, it is said that the consumer is the king and the legislation is intended to safeguard and protect the rights and interests of the consumer, but that does not mean that he is extricated from the obligations under the contract in question much less to observe prudence and due care.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

While dealing with a complaint filed before the consumer for a, the jurisdiction or the nature of enquiry to be undertaken by the consumer fora is limited to the factum of deficiency in service and to award compensation only if that fact is substantiated by the party alleging the same. (Para 11)

The enquiry in such proceedings is limited to grievance about deficiency in service, which is distinct from the tortuous acts of the other party. (Para 12)

The deficiency in service must be ascribed only in respect of the stated contractual obligations of the parties. (Para 14)

It is the primary obligation of the passenger, who has been issued boarding pass to undergo the security­check procedure and reach at the boarding gate well before (at least 25 minutes before) the scheduled departure time. (Para 18)

No doubt, it is said that the consumer is the king and the legislation is intended to safeguard and protect the rights and interests of the consumer, but that does not mean that he is extricated from the obligations under the contract in question much less to observe prudence and due care. (Para 18)

After boarding pass is issued, the passenger is expected to proceed towards security channel area and head towards specified boarding gate on his own. There is no contractual obligation on the airlines to escort every passenger, after the boarding pass is issued to him at the check­in counter, up to the boarding gate. Further, the Airlines issuing boarding passes cannot be made liable for the misdeeds, inaction or so to say misunderstanding caused to the passengers, until assistance is sought from the ground­staff of the airlines at the airport well in time. (Para 19)

If decisions assailed in the revision petitions are manifestly wrong and suffer from error of jurisdiction, the National Commission ought to exercise its jurisdiction and correct the palpable and manifest error committed by the two consumer fora below. (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 20)

There is no obligation on the airlines to escort every passenger after issuing him/her a boarding pass at the check­in counter until he/she reaches the boarding gate. That would be a very tall claim to make. Indeed, in a given case, if the passenger encounters difficulty or impediment to report at the boarding gate, he/she is expected to seek assistance of the ground­staff of the concerned airlines well in time. If such request is made, there is no reason to presume that the ground­staff of the concerned airlines will not extend logistical assistance to facilitate the passenger for reporting at the boarding gate in time. That, however, would be a matter to be enquired into on case to case basis. (Para 21)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_28-Jan-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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