The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition by Deccan Aviation Ltd that sought to challenge two consumer courts' rulings where it was held guilty of lacking in services following the cancellation of a flight due to poor maintenance of its aircraft.
A bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat refused to allow Deccan Aviation's plea that sought a stay on a Delhi High Court order that asked it to pay litigation expenses of Rs50,000 to passenger Amit Gupta, in addition to about Rs33,000 by way of the difference in fares and compensation.
The same ruling had been passed by two consumer courts earlier, both the district forum and Delhi Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission for deficiency in service to the passenger. The passenger was stranded due to cancellation of a flight and therefore, could not reach his destination in time.
The consumer courts had ruled that the cancellation was on account of negligence on the part of the airline in maintenance of its aircraft,, causing the respondent mental tension, anxiety and inconvenience. It held that non-maintenance of a carrier or a technical snag or any failure of mechanism itself amounted to deficiency in service, saying that it was the duty of the service provider to see that its aircraft were always kept in perfect condition ''so as to adhere to the timing of flights". It also observed that the only grounds on which the service provider can be excused were acts of God, such as bad weather, poor visibility, bird hits etc.
The high court had said that the passenger could not be burdened with litigation costs for contesting Deccan Aviation's petition.
Deccan Aviation argued that while the flight was cancelled due to technical snag beyond its control, it also submitted that the consumer fora had acted outside their jurisdiction, as the issuance of the maintenance of aircraft was a matter solely and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Aircraft Rules 1937. Further, Deccan Aviation argued that it was inherent in every machine to develop fault and the owner cannot be held liable for negligence.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, Deccan Aviation had said that the high court cannot direct it to pay the respondent, raising an important question of law with regard to operation of flights, and the obligation of the operators in the event of cancellation and delay of flights due to technical reasons.