This appeal has been filed by the appellant against the order dated 22.08.2007 passed by the Orissa State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Cuttack (in short, ‘the State Commission’) in CD Case No. 72 of 2004 - Susant Kumar Baral Vs. The Airport Manager, Indian Airlines & Ors. by which, complaint was partly allowed.
2. Brief facts of the case are that Complainant/respondent is a Faculty member in the Department of Business Administration. Berhampur University, Berhampur in the State of Orissa and has been teaching at Post Graduate level for the last 13 years in Business Administration. He was invited to attend and present his research findings in the 11th PACAP/FMA Finance and Banking Conference at Singapore during 8-10 July, 1999. He accordingly decided to go to Singapore to attend the conference. He purchased a ticket (Kolkata-Singapore-Kolkata) from Sita World Travels India Private Limited, Bhubaneswar – opposite party no. 6 for his journey to Singapore on 06.07.1999 from Kolkata in Flight- IC 7272 being run by opposite parties 1 to 5/Appellants. After he checked in at Kolkata Airport on 06.07.1999, his suitcase was shifted to be sent in the cargo of the same flight. It carried the baggage no.UTN IC 013037. After landing at the Changi Airport, Singapore at about 11.30 p.m., when he went to collect his suitcase, to his utter surprise he did not find it. There was not a single member of the Indian Air-Lines staff who could help him in locating the suitcase. The 'Lost and Found Section' of the Changi Airport was about to be closed and some person advised him to come next morning and report about the missing of the suitcase. He had for the first time landed in a foreign soil. He had no friend and relation in Singapore. He was perturbed and had to spend the night in the Airport without any food. In the next day morning i.e. 07.07.1999, some officers of the 'Lost and Found Section' gave him telephone numbers of Indian Airlines office. On contacting over phone, one Ramdas, Airport Manager assured him that the suitcase would be found and requested him to wait for some time. In view of assurance, he was expecting that the suitcase would be found and he waited till 8.00 p.m. but without any success. His conference was to start on the next day i.e. 08.07.1999 morning. He had kept all his clothing and the computer floppy for presentation in the suitcase. He had only one dress which he had put on. He had kept some currency in the suitcase. He had with him only registration fee USD 400. As he had to attend the conference, he needed a suit, pant, shirt, tie and undergarments. He brought his plight to the notice of Ramdas and requested him for granting minimum amount for purchase of a dress. He, however, offered only 75 dollars. After getting that amount, he immediately rushed to the nearby market and bought a suit, shirt, tie and other necessary garments. Thereafter he rushed to the venue of the conference. The organizers of the conference permitted him to present his research paper and pay the registration fee after reaching India. As the computer floppy was lost along with the suitcase, his presentation of paper in the conference was not to the mark. 10.07.1999 was the last day of the conference and the flight reservation to Kolkata was next day morning. But he had to stay back on 11.7.1999 to settle the matter. Ramdas refused his request to return to India via Madras as the next flight to Kolkata was on 14.07.1999 although he was prepared to pay the differential amount. He was forced to extend his journey till 14.07.1999 in the Singapore – Kolkata flight. He had to stay three days more for no fault of his. At Singapore Airport, the complainant gave application for compensation to Ramas on 14.07.1999 who promised that it would be examined. Alleging deficiency on the part of OPs, complainant filed complaint before State Commission.
3. OP No. 1 to 5 resisted complaint, admitted journey taken by the complainant and also admitted loss of suitcase, but submitted that if computer floppy was important, it should have been carried by hand by the complainant. It was further submitted that under the regulations, OP is liable for loss of baggage upto US$20 per kg. and as missing bag was of 12 kgs, complainant is entitled to only US$240 for the loss of baggage. It was further submitted that complaint was barred by limitation and learned State Commission was not having territorial jurisdiction; hence, complaint be dismissed. Learned State Commission after hearing parties, allowed complaint and directed OP No. 1 to 5 to pay jointly and severally Rs.1 lakh as compensation, US$240 for loss of baggage and litigation cost of Rs. 5,000/- against which, this appeal has been filed.
4. Heard learned Counsel for the parties finally at admission stage and perused record.
5. Learned Counsel for the appellant submitted that learned State Commission has committed error in allowing complaint, though, it was time barred and was not having jurisdiction and further committed error in not deciding these objections hence, appeal be allowed and impugned order be set aside and matter may be remanded back to learned State Commission for deciding complaint afresh. On the other hand, learned Counsel for the respondent submitted that complaint was within limitation and State Commission was having jurisdiction and order passed by learned State Commission is in accordance with law; hence, appeal be dismissed.
6. Perusal of record reveals that in para 5 of the complaint it has been mentioned that ticket was sold by OP No. 6 who did not create any problem, but he has been made a party to justify jurisdiction of the Commission. In para 14 of the complaint it was pleaded that OP is too adamant and least bothered to settle the matter even after 5 years of loss of suitcase and in para 18 of the complaint it was mentioned that complaint is not barred by time and simultaneously made prayer to condone delay caused due to health grounds of the petitioner. OP in their written statement subsequently pleaded that complaint was barred by limitation and learned State Commission has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.
7. Perusal of impugned order reveals that learned State Commission has not considered both objections taken by OP in their written statement and until and unless learned State Commission gives findings that complaint was within limitation and learned State Commission was having territorial jurisdiction, learned State Commission should not have proceeded further and should not have allowed complaint. As aforesaid both legal objections have not been considered by learned State Commission which ought to have been considered as prima facie complaint is barred by limitation and prima facie no relief was sought against
Please Login To View The Full Judgment!
OP No. 6 who was impleaded only for the purpose of creating territorial jurisdiction of learned State Commission, matter is to be remanded back for deciding complaint after considering aforesaid and other legal objections. 8. Consequently, appeal filed by appellant is allowed and impugned order dated 22.08.2007 passed by the learned State Commission in CD Case No. 72 of 2004 - Susant Kumar Baral Vs. The Airport Manager, Indian Airlines & Ors. is set aside and matter is remanded back to learned State Commission to decide complaint afresh in the light of aforesaid observations after giving an opportunity of being heard to the parties with no order as to costs. 9. Parties are directed to appear before State Commission on 09.01.2017.