The Supreme Court has set aside a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) order awarding Rs 2 crore compensation to a woman for a bad haircut and hair treatment at a five-star hotel in Delhi, terming it "extremely excessive and disproportionate".

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath said: "The NCDRC discussed regarding the importance of hair in a woman's life and also that it could be an asset for building a career in modelling and advertising industry but then quantification of compensation has to be based upon material evidence and not on the mere asking."

"What could be quantified was compensation under the head of pain, suffering and trauma. However, an amount of Rs 2 crore would be extremely excessive and disproportionate."

The bench stressed that the NCDRC fell in error by awarding compensation to the tune of Rs 2 crore without there being any material to substantiate and support the same or which could have helped the NCDRC to quantify the compensation.

"We are left with no option but to set aside the order of NCDRC awarding Rs.2 crores as compensation for loss of income, mental breakdown and trauma and pain and suffering". It also remitted the matter back to the NCDRC for fresh determination of the compensation amount.

Respondent Aashna Roy visited the saloon of the Hotel ITC Maurya, New Delhi in April, 2018 for hair styling so that she would have a clean and groomed appearance before the interview panel where she was to appear. She gave specific instructions to the hairdresser regarding the haircut.

According to the respondent, as a result of the faulty haircut, she could not continue to lead her normal busy life as she no longer looked pretty, she had to face great humiliation and embarrassment, her career in the world of modelling was completely shattered, and she went into a state of depression.

Later, the hotel offered her hair treatment free of cost. In May 2018, Roy went to the salon for this purpose. However, during the treatment, she claimed her hair and scalp were completely damaged with excess ammonia and consequently, there was a lot of irritation. She filed a complaint before the NCDRC alleging deficiency in service, seeking written apology from the management as also compensation of Rs 3 crore for harassment, humiliation, mental trauma, loss of career, loss of income, and loss of future prospects.

In September 2021, the NCDRC awarded Rs 2 crore compensation to her. ITC Ltd moved the apex court challenging this order.

The apex court asked Roy to produce the material regarding her advertising and modelling assignments in the past or for which she had entered into a contract or agreement for the present and future with any of the brands to show her expected loss. The respondent utterly failed to demonstrate from the record filed before the NCDRC or before this court regarding the above queries, noted the bench.

The apex court, in its judgment pronounced on February 7, said : "In the absence of any material with regard to her existing job, the emoluments received by her, any past, present or future assignments in modelling which the respondent was likely to get or even the interview letter for which the respondent alleges she had gone to the saloon to make herself presentable, it would be difficult to quantify or assess the compensation under these heads."