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Mumbai: Travel firm to pay for bus passenger’s ‘nightmare’, says consumer court

Updated on: 17 January,2024 05:17 AM IST  |  Mumbai
A Correspondent |

Mumbai Consumer Commission awards Rs 2 lakh in compensation to a senior citizen with medical issues who was offloaded at a remote location

Mumbai: Travel firm to pay for bus passenger’s ‘nightmare’, says consumer court

The bus driver told the complainant that the diversion was planned well in advance. Representation Pic

In a major consumer court judgment that will have wide ramifications on travel companies and bus operators, the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Commission in an order last Thursday has awarded Rs 2 lakhs as compensation plus costs to a passenger who was the victim of “inhuman treatment” by a travel website and a bus-operating company. On December 12, 2018, the passenger, Shekhar Hattangadi, a senior citizen with medical issues, pre-booked a luxury bus ticket for a Surat-Mumbai trip on the online Travelyaari website, and was assigned to travel in a bus operated on that route by Paulo Travels headquartered in Panaji, Goa.

“My travails began even before I could begin the journey. Being not informed about the precise pickup spot in Surat, I barely managed to board the bus at the last minute after an anxious run-around. Then I settled into the seat only after the driver checked the ticket while boarding,” Hattangadi said. “Then, midway through the journey I was shockingly asked to deboard at a remote spot near Chinchoti village (more than 50 km from Mumbai) on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway in the dead of night,” he said.

“The reason being that they had to make a diversion owing to some construction work on the highway and would thus completely bypass Mumbai city. The diversion, according to the bus driver, was planned several days in advance—which meant that the bus never intended to reach Mumbai that day but was proceeding instead to Panaji via Thane and Pune despite carrying an external signboard which said SRT-MUM, implying Surat-to-Mumbai,” he said.

“When I asked the driver why he wasn’t informed about the diversion if it was known to the bus company, the driver brusquely replied that the question would be more appropriately asked to the ‘office people’, since his job was only to drive the bus,” he said. “Left stranded on the highway around midnight without any relief provided by the travel companies by way of alternative transportation or accommodation, I then had to take multiple modes of transport like auto, local train and private taxi to finally reach home in the early hours of the next morning—physically exhausted and mentally traumatised by the travel experience,” he added. Hattangadi then approached the consumer court for redressal and filed a plea with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission seeking compensation for deficiency in service and harassment caused to him.

Noting that the travel companies did not deny the wrongdoing on their part, the Commission President Samindara Surve and member Sanjay Jagdale accepted the passenger’s argument that the companies’ deficiencies in service caused him mental agony and physical hardship exacerbated by his advancing age.

The District Commission therefore concluded that the travel companies are liable to make good their deficiencies, ordering them to pay a compensation of Rs 2 lakh with an additional R2,000 as transportation cost and court filing cost. This is to be done within 60 days from the date of the order, failing which interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum would have to be paid till actual realisation. Email messages to both parties for the other side of the story remained unanswered till the time of going to the press.

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