STATE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION,
176 of 2019
Date of Institution
Date of Decision
Manjinder Singh Saini, Aged about 30 years S/o S. Ajmer Singh, Resident of Village Bhagwal, P.O. Kurali, District Rupnagar (140103) (Punjab).
2nd Address (Office): Manjinder Singh Saini, Advocate, Seat No.28, Room No.27, New Bar Complex, Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh.
Haryana Roadways through its General Manager, Office at Plot No.182, Industrial Area, Purv Marg, Phase I, Chandigarh (160002).
Haryana Roadways through its General Manager, Office at Bus Stand Gurugram, Adarsh Nagar, Sector 12-A, Haryana (122006).
Appeal under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
BEFORE: JUSTICE RAJ SHEKHAR ATTRI (RETD.), PRESIDENT.
MR. RAJESH K. ARYA, MEMBER.
Sh. Manjinder Singh Saini, appellant in person.
Sh. Vineet Chaudhary, Assistant District Attorney for the respondents.
PER RAJESH K. ARYA, MEMBER
This appeal has been filed by the complainant against order dated 28.06.2019 passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-I, U.T., Chandigarh (in short ‘the Forum’), vide which, his complaint bearing No.541 of 2018 was dismissed by the said Forum.
2. It was the admitted case of both the parties before the Forum that the complainant booked two Volvo bus tickets from Chandigarh to Delhi Airport through online e-ticketing service of the opposite parties for 19.10.2018 at 01:26 A.M. by paying an amount of Rs.1,360/- towards basic fair plus Rs.50/- as reservation charges. The complainant and his wife were having their flight from Delhi Airport to Goa. However, when they reached the Chandigarh Bus Stand to board the bus at the scheduled date and time, he was shocked to know that the said bus had been cancelled by the opposite parties. With no other alternative, the complainant booked private taxi from Chandigarh bus stand to Delhi Airport by paying an amount of Rs.10,000/- as taxi fair. It was his case that the opposite parties did not intimate the complainant qua cancellation of the bus well in time i.e. before 19.10.2018, as a result whereof, he suffered lot of mental pain and agony due to said deficiency in rendering service on the part of the opposite parties.
3. The stand of the opposite parties before the Forum was that the cancellation of bus was due to strike of Haryana Roadways Employees for the period from 16.10.2018 to 02.11.2018. It was stated that the employees union extended the strike continuously for 18 days and information regarding strike was being published in various newspapers regularly. It was further stated that prior intimation regarding cancellation of buses could not be sent to the passengers including the complainant as the strike was sudden and beyond the control of the opposite parties. The opposite parties placed reliance on their terms and conditions on e-ticketing/reservation whereunder, Haryana Roadways may delay/cancel a service without any prior notice in case of circumstances beyond its control and in such circumstances, enable a full refund of the e-ticket as paid by the passenger and shall be under no further liability to the passenger.
4. In the instant case, refund of two e-tickets of Rs.1,360/- had been made to the complainant through online transaction dated 26.10.2018. However, transaction charges of Rs.50/- were not refunded.
5. It may be stated here that during the course of arguments, Counsel for the respondent stated that prior intimation qua cancellation could not be given to the complainant as whole of the staff whether administrative or technical was on strike. We are not going to accept such a vague argument. The opposite parties cannot take shelter for their deficiency in rendering service in not intimating as regards the cancellation under the garb of strike of drivers or conductors of buses.
6. It is important to mention here that in the terms and conditions governing Haryana Roadways (Annexure D-I) placed on record by the opposite parties alongwith their reply, there is clear cut stipulation that ” The trips are subject to cancellation or postponement due to breakdown of the vehicle or insufficient passengers for the trip. Under such circumstance passengers will be intimated through email/phone as soon as possible and the e-Ticket amount will be refunded……..”. Though, there was a strike of conductors or drivers but the whole staff including administrative staff of Haryana Roadways could not be expected to go on strike by leaving the complainant in lurch. Their own terms and conditions, as quoted above, make it mandatory and necessary to intimate as regards cancellation of bus/trip to the passenger through email/phone as soon as possible. However, the opposite parties left the complainant in lurch by not doing so. They tried to put off their responsibility and duty by saying that the circumstances were beyond their control.
7. It is not only the complainant, who suffered on account of deficiency in rendering service on the part of the opposite parties but there must be several other passengers also who had booked online tickets. The public at large including the complainant suffered due to cancellation of buses by Haryana Roadways. One can imagine what would be the plight of a consumer/passenger, who had to board a flight from Delhi and on reaching Chandigarh Bus Stand came to know that the bus, in question, had been cancelled and he had to hire a taxi by shelling extra amount from his pocket. It is natural that when a person obtains a ticket in advance, he will come to board the bus 10 to 15 minutes before the departure and can never be aware of the cancellation of the bus in advance. It may also be stated here that transport service for the carriage of passenger is an essential public utility service under Section 2(1)(a)(ii) of the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981 and strike by the employees cannot be to the detriment of convenience of the public at large. We find that the opposite parties are deficient in providing service to the complainant by not intimating him in advance about the cancellation of the bus ticket through email or otherwise or sending a SMS and by not making any alternative arrangement for the complainant. Non intimation as regards cancellation of bus to the complainant caused much hardship to him. No such steps have been taken by the opposite parties in this case to give alternative assistance to the complainant, causing him much inconvenience, upsetting his schedule of journey thereby causing a lot of tension, mental agony apart from monetary loss to him.
8. In our considered opinion, the Forum wrongly dismissed the complaint without appreciating the facts and material available on record and as such, the impugned order passed by the Forum being illegal and arbitrary is liable to be set aside and the complaint filed by the appellant/complainant deserves to be partly allowed.
9. For the reasons recorded above, the appeal is allowed. The impugned order dated 28.06.2019 passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-I, U.T., Chandigarh, dismissing consumer complaint bearing No.541 of 2018, is set aside. Consumer Complaint bearing No.541 of 2018 is partly allowed against the respondents/opposite parties with costs and they are, jointly and severally, directed as under:-
to pay an amount of Rs.10,000/- to the appellant/complainant paid by him as taxi fare within a period of 45 days from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order, failing which, the aforesaid amount shall carry interest @9% per annum, from the date of default i.e. after expiry of period of 45 days till actual realization.
to pay an amount of Rs.25,000/- as compensation for mental agony and physical harassment and Rs.5,000/- as costs of litigation to the appellant/complainant, within a period of 45 days from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order, failing which, the aforesaid amounts shall carry interest @9% per annum, from the date of filing the complaint till actual realization.
10. Certified Copies of this order be sent to the parties, free of charge.
11. The file be consigned to Record Room, after completion.
[RAJ SHEKHAR ATTRI]
(RAJESH K. ARYA)