State Commission sets aside impugned order against Air India

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By Adv. Jatin Ramaiya*

 

Alain Edgard Beelen and his son Gary Erwin Beelen, residents of Arpora, approached the Goa State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Panaji, challenging the order of dismissal of their complaint by the District Forum, North Goa.

Beelen and his son had filed a complaint against the station manager Air India and travel agent, Masala Travel Company. Beelen said that he had booked tickets with Air India through its agent, for himself and his son to travel from Delhi airport to Tontonta airport, Noumea with transit stop at Sydney airport for six hours and 15 minutes. On reaching Delhi airport with confirmed tickets he approached the counter of Air India for boarding passes but the officer of the airline on duty informed him that he cannot not issue boarding passes for both of them as both father and son did not have transit visa from department of Immigration of Australia.

However according to Beelen, since their stay in Australia was in transit and only for six hours and 15 minutes no transit visa was required and no issuance of the boarding passes amounted to deficiency in service. According to Beelen, he and  his son had to come back to Goa via Mumbai and they lost their money because they could not travel.

Beelan complained to Air India which was replied to by letter dated June 22 2016 and thereafter a complaint was filed by him. However, the District Forum did not find favour with Beelen and dismissed his complaint at the stage of admission without issuing any notice to the Airline Company or the travel agent.

Members of District Forum opined in their order that that the incident had occurred at Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi and therefore the entire cause of action for filing the complaint had arisen at New Delhi and the Forum had no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. It was also observed that as per the reply of the airline company at the time of check in for A1-302 subsequent to swiping of passports, “Do Not Board” remark appeared for both Mr. Beelen and his son. The Forum further held that since ‘Do not Board’ remark appeared for both three Belgium nationals and no clearance was issued from Australian Embassy or EOC till boarding commenced, due to which the Delhi airport staff had no option but to de-check the passengers.

The Forum therefore held that Beelen failed to make out case for admission of the complaint and dismissed the same. However, the Goa State Commission whilst setting aside the impugned order of the District Forum, admitted the complaint filed by Beelen and directed the Forum to proceed in accordance with law in the said complaint.

The State Commission in its judgement held that since Air India and their agent had an office within the territorial jurisdiction of the Forum it ought to have admitted the complaint on the said count. It was further observed that the Forum had territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. Therefore the finding of the Forum to the effect that it had no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint appeared incorrect.