Pak airlines to pay Rs 1 lakh to Indian

New Delhi: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been directed by an apex consumer forum to pay Rs one lakh compensation to an Indian passenger, Bhagwan Dutt, who claimed to have lost his job after the airlines failed to provide him seat despite his confirmed ticket. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) rejected PIA`s plea that since the passenger was on a transit halt at Karachi and the Indian courts had no jurisdiction to deal with the issue.

Rajasthan resident Bhagwan Dutt who was working in Riyadh at Saudi Arabia in 1998 had sought the compensation on the ground that he lost his job due to the airlines` failure to to ferry him so that he could report back for duty in time.

"It is also clear that the action of the appellant (PIA) closed other options for the complainant (Dutt). Had he been given refund at Delhi, instead of assurance to provide a seat at Karachi, he could have tried other airlines. We agree with the State Commission that this constituted a deficiency in service," NCDRC bench headed by Justice V R Kingaonkar said.

The bench also comprising Member Vinay Kumar said it was clear that PIA took Dutt from Delhi to Karachi on December 17, 1998 assuring him to provide a connecting flight to Riyadh but completely failed to do so.The apex forum passed the order while dismissing the Airlines` appeal challenging a Delhi State Consumer Commission order which had directed it to pay Rs one lakh to Dutt for the financial loss and mental agony suffered by him along with cost of ticket.

Dutt, in his complaint, said he was working in Riyadh and had come to India for a short visit with permission to re-enter Saudi Arabia by December 19, 1998. He said he had bought a return ticket from the Delhi office of the airlines for December 16 but the flight was cancelled due to heavy fog here.

According to the complainant, the Airlines had assured him of providing a seat in the connecting flight from Karachi to Riyadh and took him to Karachi where he was kept from December 17 to 22, 1998. Dutt said he was brought back to Delhi on December 22 but by that time his permission to re-enter Saudi Arabia had expired on account of which he lost his job. He complained that the Airlines did not even refund his ticket which rendered him financially incapable of travelling by any other airline, to join duty and save his job.

The airlines contended that it could not provide a seat to Dutt in Karachi as there was heavy rush in all the flights because of cancellation of flights due to fog. The airlines said that since the airport of origin, as well as the eventual destination of the journey, was Riyadh and Dutt was technically in transit, in between, therefore, the courts in India have no jurisdiction in the matter. Rejecting the contention, the bench said, "In the face of this clear admission that the ticket was purchased in Delhi and from the Delhi office of PIA, we have no hesitation in rejecting the argument put forth on behalf of the Airlines, at the threshold itself."