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Vinod Kumar Gupta Vs. Indian Airlines and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtJammu and Kashmir High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 624 of 1983
Reported inAIR1984J& K35
ActsIndian Airlines Cancellatio of Tickets and Refund Regulations, 1980 - Regulation 9; ;Constitution of India - Article 14
AppellantVinod Kumar Gupta
RespondentIndian Airlines and ors.
Appellant AdvocateParty in person
Respondent Advocate T.S. Thakur, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
- the deduction of the throw away sum of rs. 20/- for those who travel by air. a holder of a waitlisted ticket can get the ticket cancelled before the departure of the flight either at the airport or at the city terminal, and get the fare refunded, without any deductions for service charges. it is only those who sit at home and do not turn up to board the flight when seats are available that come for this differential treatment. those, who turn up at the airport counter, and do not get a seat, get full refund. for those who do not do this, the indian airlines charge rs. 20/-as service charges. in the petitioner's case he presented both the tickets for cancellation as late as june 3, 1983. it does not, in fairness, lie in the mouth of the petitioner, to demur at the deductions. it.....

V. Khalid, C.J.

1. The petitioner is an advocate by profession. He probably travels frequently by air. He states that he takes keen interest in the general welfare measures of the public at large concerning various consumers and other problems of the public. This petition is filed by him 'on the basis of a cause of action having personally accrued to him' but in which the public also is interested. In this petition, the petitioner seeks to espouse the cause of that oppressed and Cleared for sections of the society whose only misfortune is their affluence and who perforce have to use as their means of travel the jet propelled winged birds flying in the air. The provocation for this petition is the denial by the Indian Airlines, Jammu, of the 'fabulous' amount of Rs. 20/- to the petitioner, on each of the two wait-listed tickets he held. Through this petition he invites this Court to safeguard the interests of such wait-listed persons who are frequently robbed of this amount of Rupees 20/- illegally, mercilessly and unjustifiably by the Indian Airlines. I wished, that this exercise, under the garb of public interest litigation, was reserved for a better cause; but that was not to be. The zeal and zest with which the petitioner pleaded his cause and that of persons of his ilk compel me to note his contentions and meet them.

2. The petitioner purchased two tickets for his travel from Jammu to Srinagar for 10th and 25th May, 1983 respectively. Status of both the tickets was shown as 'wait-listed'. The tickets were purchased from the 3rd respondent, the Station Manager, Indian Airlines, Tourist Reception Centre, Jammu. Despite his best efforts, he could not get the tickets confirmed. He, therefore, surrendered the tickets to the 3rd respondent and claimed refund. The ticket fare was Rs. 179/-each. The 3rd respondent deducted Rupees 20/- each from the tickets for 'alleged service charges'. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner sent a notice to the 3rd respondent on 10-6-1983 with a copy endorsed to the Managing Director, Indian Airlines in Delhi detailing therein 'the absolute illegality and irregularity' in deducting Rs. 20/- and claiming refund of the amount of Rs. 40/- illegally deducted from the fare amount. He received a reply in which he was told that the matter was being investigated. Subsequently, he received another letter from the Chief Commercial Manager, Indian Airlines, Janpath, New Delhi, 2nd respondent herein, informing him that the deductions were properly made. The petitioner was, however, told that the respondents were waiving their claim for service charges in the petitioner's case as a special case and informed him to collect the amount from the 3rd respondent. The petitioner was not prepared to accept the refund as 'charity' but insisted upon being told of the sanction behind this deduction. It is against this background that this petition has been filed requesting this Court for the issue of a writ of mandamus commanding the respondents to refund to the petitioner the amount of Rs. 40/- illegally deducted towards service charges and for a writ of prohibition restraining the respondents (1st respondent being the Indian Airlines through its Managing Director) from levying service charges on any wait-listed ticket.

3. The case of the petitioner is met by the respondents through their counter-affidavits. The maintainability of the petition and the petitioner's locus standi to sustain it is questioned. The petitioner was wait-listed No. 163 for flight No. 421 from Jammu to Srinagar scheduled to leave on 10-5-1983. On the day of flight the petitioner did not show up at the airport when his name was called. The available seats were therefore, allotted to waiting passengers after S. No. 163. The names of such passengers are given in the counter-affidavit. Similarly the petitioner held request-ticket wait-list at S. No. 79 on flight IC-421 from Jammu to Srinagar on 25-5-1983. On the said date also the petitioner failed to show up at the Indian Airlines checking counter at the airport. Consequently the passengers holding request-tickets below the petitioner's serial number, were accommodated by the said flight. The deduction in question is justified as per regulation No. 9 of the Indian Airlines Cancellation of Tickets and Refund Regulations, 1980. It is averred in the counter-affidavit that there are only three types of tickets recognised under the regulations, namely, O. K., Open and Request-tickets. The petitioner's case that regulation does not cover wait-listed ticket, is denied. Tickets which are neither O. K. nor Open, fall in the category of Request-tickets which take wait-listed tickets also. Along with counter-affidavit the passenger lists for the two flights have been enclosed. The counter-affidavit winds up with the request to dismiss the petition as one devoid of merits.

4. The petitioner's case is that regulations do not cover a category called 'wait-listed tickets'. The only three categories contemplated by the regulations are : O. K. tickets, Open tickets and Request-tickets. Cancellation charges of Rs. 20/- are not applicable to wait-listed tickets. The norms for regulations are covered by the 'Indian Airlines Cancellation of Tickets and Refund Regulations'. The current regulations came into force from 1st day of September, 1980. The method of refund is detailed in the regulations. The case of the respondents is that the wait-listed tickets come within the category of Request-tickets and that the respondents are perfectly justified in deducting Rs. 20/- for such tickets. The petitioner's case is that the cancellation rules do not provide for levy of service charges on a wait-listed ticket. According to him by its very nature, the holder of a wait-listed ticket, is not obliged to report to the Airlines' office or to the Airport and that it is the passenger's own option either to avail of the opportunity of boarding a particular flight or not. According to him, it is wrong to equate Request-ticket with a wait-listed ticket. Both are dissimilar in nature and in character. The issuing station has no right over the Request-tickets. That is not the case in the case of wait-listed tickets. To confuse the two is to confuse the issue involved in the case. It is to wriggle out of the inconvenience contributed by the vague nature in which the regulations have been framed that an attempt is made to equate these two classes of tickets in the same status. The very fact that the respondents thought it fit to waive their right and offer the deducted amount, bespeaks how weak their case is. The petitioner therefore contends that it is necessary in the interests of justice and fair play and to protect those who frequently travel by air, to issue an appropriate direction against the Indian Airlines which comes within the expression 'other authorities' in Article 12 of the Constitution of India, to desist from deducting the amount of Rs. 20/- from fare of the wait-listed tickets.

5. I have referred to the rival contentions in the foregoing paragraphs only for the completion of this judgment. In my view this petition deserves to be thrown out at the threshold for more than one reason. The attempt of the petitioner, pro bono publico, to project a case like this, does not merit any serious consideration. The offer of the deducted amount to the petitioner, in fact, destroyed the cause of action that he had. It is not every wait-listed ticket holder that is subjected to the deduction of the throw away sum of RS. 20/- for those who travel by air. A holder of a waitlisted ticket can get the ticket cancelled before the departure of the flight either at the airport or at the city terminal, and get the fare refunded, without any deductions for service charges. It is only those who sit at home and do not turn up to board the flight when seats are available that come for this differential treatment. Those, who turn up at the airport counter, and do not get a seat, get full refund. For those who do not do this, the Indian Airlines charge Rs. 20/-as service charges. In the petitioner's case he presented both the tickets for cancellation as late as June 3, 1983. It does not, in fairness, lie in the mouth of the petitioner, to demur at the deductions. It cannot be disputed that in the process of issue of tickets, a ticket is wasted and certain amount of time is taken for filling up the tickets. To contend that the Indian Airlines cannot deduct Rs. 20/- for this process, is to say the least, very cruel. I have no hesitation that deduction in such cases is perfectly justified.

6. The petitioner does not dispute that deduction of Rs. 20/- can be had for Request-tickets. The only objection that he raises is that the regulations do not cover wait-listed tickets and as such deduction of Rs. 20/- has no sanction in law. I cannot agree. The contention that the Request-ticket is not the same as wait-listed ticket, cannot also be accepted. In a wait-listed ticket there is, in fact, a request by 1he intending passenger to give him or her a seat in case such a seat is available, after holders of O. K. tickets are provided on board. The issue of wait-listed tickets is only a means to regulate the allotment of seats to the requisite ticket holders. This is a facility extended to the intending passengers. It is in the fitness of things therefore, that the Corporation deducts service charge of Rs. 20/- on the failure of the passenger to show up at the Airport and avail his chance on the flight for which his ticket was wait-listed or to cancel it before the departure of the flight. Regulation 9 clearly enables the Corporation to make the deductions in question. The entire case is built upon the absence of the words 'wait-listed' in the regulations. I agree with the respondents and hold that Request-tickets take in wait-listed tickets also. I may in passing observe that the Corporation can amend the regulation by including the word 'wait-listed' also for the purpose of clarity. The petition in my view is devoid of merits and has only to be dismissed.

7. Public interest litigation has secured to the underdogs basic human rights and other fundamental rights. Courts of law have now bestirred themselves and have taken up on themselves the task of making justice easy and cheap ignoring the normal technicalities of procedure. The authorities have also now been alerted at this resurgence of judicial activism. But I have a hunch that public interest litigation is facing a threat of loss of credibility by its mis-use for all imaginary causes and sometimes to ventilate personal or political animosities. It would be the duty of the Courts to curb such mis-use.

8. I dismiss the petition with no direction as to costs.

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