The term “consumer” used in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, gives two definitions, one of which is defined under section 2(d):-
(d) “consumer” means any person who—
ii) hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who ‘hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first-mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purposes;
The act provides for the establishment of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission by the State Government, and this Commission can hear complaints if the value of goods or services, as well as any compensation sought, exceeds Rs. 5 lakhs but not more than Rs. 20 lakhs; the State Commission can also hear appeals against the rulings of any District Forum within the state. One of the many cases that the commission has dealt with, is the case of Station Manager, Indian Airlines v. Dr. Jiteswar Ahir.
Facts of the Case:-
The complainant, Dr. Jiteswar, boarded a flight of the Indian Airlines and was informed by an employee of the aircraft (opposing party), that his luggage was unidentifiable on the ground, and was asked to exit the aircraft to locate it. This happened after he had boarded the plane and taken his respective seat, along with his colleagues who were with him on the plane. After being informed about his stranded luggage, he claimed that he moved towards the back door and discovered a step ladder attached to the aircraft door, so he stepped out on it. However, before he could fully extend his body on the staircase, the ladder was abruptly removed, causing him to fall to the ground and sustain severe injuries. He was given immediate medical assistance and then sent to the hospital, where he was treated by medical professionals and he was reported to have traumatic Hemarthrosis in the left knee, as well as traumatic chest discomfort and abrasion in the left elbow, as a result of the aforementioned collision. The plaintiff sought Rs. 10.00 lakhs in compensation under several headings, citing carelessness and inadequacy in the service of opposing parties.
Now the opposing parties claimed that one of the air hostesses screamed at him, to stop him from exiting, just when he was about to disembark from the aircraft because the step ladder was being detached while he was about to step out of the plane. They pleaded Rule 30 of the Carriage by Air Act, 1972 saying that the complainant failed to make a complaint within the reasonable period specified in the express provision and as per the act, they willed to pay an amount of Rs. 40,000/- as compensation.
When this issue was taken to the State Commission, they reasoned out that there was pure negligence on behalf of the Opposing party, which resulted in the complainant falling to the ground. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, under section 2 says that:-
(g) “deficiency” means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service;
Referring to this definition, the State Commission further stated that there was a “dangerous deficiency” in the services provided by the airline, the opposition. After examining the medical reports of the complainant it was found that even after a year, he had experienced difficulties in stooping, squatting, and extreme discomfort in standing for lengthy periods. After further assessment of the injuries sustained by the complainant, Dr. Mishra, his doctor, believed that he had developed quadriceps atrophy and a torn meniscus, resulting in lifelong disability as a result of damage to his left knee. Also responding to the time period claim, it was ruled that the cause of action existed only after the complainant was examined by the opposing parties’ Medical Board and that the complaint was submitted within three years of the date of the accident, therefore the general time constraint for complaints doesn’t apply to this case.
On the 30th of November, 1990, Dr. Mishra examined the complainant. In terms of percentage, the damage results in a 10% impairment. The liability cannot exceed Rs. 5 lakhs under the regulations relied on by the appellant if it is proven that the accident caused to the complainant resulted in a permanent disablement incapacitating him from engaging in or being engaged with his regular responsibilities, business, or occupation. Because this case involves a 10-percentage-point impairment and lifelong handicap, the compensation cannot exceed Rs. 5.00 lakhs. The State Commission evaluated it at Rs. 4.00 lakhs. In addition to his mental anguish, inability to move and work freely without physical impediment, and other factors, the Commission ordered that the complainant be awarded a sum of Rs. 1.00 lakh. The order of the State Commission was reiterated and upheld by the National Commission as well.
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