A Consumer Court on Monday ordered Air India to fork out a compensation of around Rs 12,000 for lost baggage containing valuables of around Rs 48,000 after observing the passenger hadn’t declared the right value of the contents of his luggage.
Ariwale Hasrat Sira Joddin, who hails from Parbhani, had flown from Mumbai to Bangkok by an Air India flight on January 27, 2010, along with two companions, M Azim and MJ Pathan Mohammed Sheikh. On landing there, he found that his 10 kg bag, containing Rs 23,230 in cash and personal articles such as a Rado watch, clothes, and food worth about Rs 24,770 was missing. Despite efforts by Thai Airways, the bag remained untraceable.
Joddin was forced to purchase new clothes and food in Bangkok, and had to borrow money from his relatives.
After finishing his work in Bangkok about a week later, Joddin approached the airline authorities again but was allegedly snubbed yet again. In court, he alleged that they neglected to pursue his complaint. Thai Airways and Air India, on their part, argued that they had made every effort to trace Joddin ’s missing bag.
In its defence, Air India’s lawyers argued that the property irregularity report filed at Bangkok had no mention of the cash and valuables inside the bag Joddin said he’d lost. The report only mentioned food and clothing. They also contended that Joddin was entitled to compensation as per Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per kg for actual and estimated lost. The SDR rate is fixed by the International Monetary Fund and varies day-to-day. The SDR on the day was 17, and the weight of his bag was 10 kg. With the value of the Rupee to SDR on the day being about R 72, Joddin was only entitled to around R 12,000 as compensation.
Citing an earlier judgment of the National Consumer Forum, the court noted that there could not be any “wilful misconduct” on part of the airline, if Joddin had not disclosed the value of the contents of his baggage, and paid additional charges accordingly.
Since Thai Airways had no contract with Ariwale, the court absolved them of any liability. The court held that only Air India was liable for the loss, and ordered them to fork out Rs 12,285 to Joddin as per the SDR.
Joddin had also demanded Rs 2,25,000 as compensation, in response to which the court observed, “In our view, the said claim of compensation against [Air India] is much exorbitant and excessive.” The bench of President SM Ratnakar and member SS Patil thus ordered the airline to pay only R 10,000 for causing him mental agony and inconvenience.