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M/s Kraftland(India) vs. United Airlines dated 2012-08-07


(From the order dated 13.02.2007 in Complaint No.1069/2006 of the
State Commission, Delhi)
M/s Kraftland(India)                                                                                 …Appellant
United Airlines                                                                                            …Respondent
For the Appellant                           :           Mr.Nishant Rai, Advocate
For the Respondent                       :           Mr.Vimal Nagrath and Ms.Karishma
Singhal, Advocates
Pronounced on 7th August, 2012
            This appeal has been filed by M/s Kraftland (India), Appellant herein who was the original complainant before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Delhi (hereinafter referred to as the State Commission’) in C.c. No.C-338/1998 in which United Airlines was the Respondent.
            The facts of the case according to the Appellant (who is engaged in the business of import and export) are that he had booked a consignment with the Respondent/Airlines for Leeds, UK through their forwarding agent M/s Necko Freight Forwarders Ltd. on 14.11.1997 and a copy of the Invoice No.2059/97 dated 08.11.1997 was handed over to the Respondent in which it was clearly indicated that Barclays Bank, Leeds, U.K. are the consignee.  Although the destination was stated as Leeds in the Airways Bill, the destination was wrongly typed by the Respondent/Airlines as being London.  Although informed about this discrepancy, Respondent did not take steps to change the destination from London to Leeds and due to the negligence and callousness of Respondent/Airlines, the Appellant’s buyer at Leeds refused to take belated delivery of the order and cancelled the same.  Appellant thereafter arranged for  another buyer for the said consignment at Los Angles and requested the Respondent to forward the consignment to Los Angles for which Appellant was ready to pay the costs.  However, vide letter dated 25.11.1997 and 04.12.1997, Respondent/Airlines expressed its inability to transfer the consignment to Los Angles stating that the documents of the concerned consignment have been released to a broker in London.  Appellant was shocked to know this because the consignee was Barclays Bank London and therefore, Respondent did not have the authority to release the documents to any other person.  To sum-up, in view of the inordinate delay on the part of the Respondent/Airlines, the Appellant was not able to dispose of the consignment either at London or at Los Angles and also lost goodwill of its clients in Leeds, suffering considerable losses on this account which adversely impacted on its business.  Since requests made to the Respondent as also to International Airport Transport Authority did not give Appellant any relief, it filed a complaint before the State Commission on grounds of deficiency in service and requested that the Respondent be directed to pay the Appellant, Rs.2 lakhs towards cost of goods, Rs.5 lakhs towards loss of goodwill and business, Rs.50,000/- towards mental agony and harassment along with refund of freight charges Rs.17,100/-, thus totalling to Rs.7,67,100/- with interest @ 24% per annum. 
Respondent denied the above contentions and stated that it was the Appellant who had mentioned the destination initially as London and also that the documents of the said consignment should be given to the broker for customs clearance.  The consignment was dispatched on the same date i.e. on 11.11.1997.  It was only through a letter dated 18.11.1997 that a request was received through Appellant’s agent to change the destination to Leeds.  While this matter was being processed which is a time consuming matter, Appellant vide letter dated 22.11.1997 again requested for change in the destination for the consignment from London to Los Angeles which was also subsequently done. Regarding the alleged delay in sending the goods to Los Angles, Appellant had never stated at any point of time to the Respondent that the consignment was required to reach Los Angeles by 8.12.1997 and therefore Respondent cannot be held guilty of deficiency in service on any of these counts.
The State Commission after hearing the parties and going through the evidence on record concluded that the allegation of the Appellant that the Respondent had wrongly booked the consignment for London whereas it was clearly stated that the consignment was to be booked for Leeds is not fortified from documents on record including the Airways Bill.  State Commission also agreed with the contention of the Respondent that the request to send the goods to Leeds was received only after the consignment had already reached London.  State Commission also concluded that Respondent cannot be held guilty for any delay in forwarding the consignment to Los Angles.  However, State Commission held the Respondent guilty for limited deficiency in service in unathorisedly handing over the documents to the broker of M/s Lucia Fashion.  Since the documents were released in an unauthorised manner it is clearly a violation in terms of Section 2(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.  State Commission, therefore, directed the Respondent to pay a lump sum compensation of Rs.50,000/- to the Appellant which also included litigation costs. 
Aggrieved by this order, Appellant has filed the present Appeal.
Counsel both parties made oral submissions.  Counsel for Appellant reiterated that it was because of the negligence of the Respondent/Airlines in not sending the goods to Leeds and unauthorisedly releasing the documents to a broker instead of to the consignee Bank,  that the Appellant lost a valuable client in Leeds.  Further, the delay in sending the goods to Los Angeles resulted in the client there refusing to take delivery of the same since it was received well after the stipulated date (i.e. 08.12.1997) and when the Christmas season was over.  Unfortunately, the Fora below failed to appreciate the financial loss and harassment caused to the Petitioner because of the deficiency in service and callousness on the part of the Respondent for which Appellant deserves to be fully compensated in terms of the request in its complaint to the State Commission.
Counsel for the respondent on the other hand brought to our notice a letter from the Appellant dated 11.11.1997 wherein it was clearly stated that the destination of the consignment was London.  It was only vide a letter dated 18.11.1997 sent to the respondent on behalf of the Appellant that the destination was changed from London to Leeds i.e. after the consignment had reached London.  Therefore,  Appellant’s contention that the consignment which was booked for Leeds was wrongly delivered at London by Respondent is factually incorrect and not borne out by the documentary evidence on record. It is also in evidence that the Appellant again requested for a change in destination on 01.12.1997 from London to Los Angeles. Respondent initially expressed some difficulty in doing so because of absence of documents which had been handed over to the broker for customs clearance but subsequently it agreed to dispatch the consignment to Los Angeles subject to payment by Appellant and accordingly dispatched the same.  Though the consignment reached Los Angeles it was not accepted by the consignee.  Nowhere had the Appellant stipulated to respondent that this consignment was to reach London on or before a particular date i.e. 08.12.1997.  Thus no deficiency in service can be attributed to the respondent.
We have heard Counsel for both parties and have gone through the evidence on record.  We find force in the Respondent’s contention as also concluded by the State Commission that the Appellant’s stand that despite giving instructions to send the consignment to Leeds, it was sent to London thus delaying the entire process, is not borne out by the evidence / documents on record.  The destination of the consignment was clearly mentioned as London and it was only after the same was dispatched on 11.11.1997 that a request was made on 18.11.997 by the Appellant to Respondent to change the destination of consignment from London to Leeds and thereafter to Los Angeles.  No stipulated date by which the consignment was to reach at Los Angeles had been specified in any of the communications that were sent by the Appellant to the Respondent.  Keeping in view these facts, we agree with the finding of the State Commission that the allegations of the Appellant in this respect are not proved by the documents on record.  The State Commission as a first court of fact has awarded Rs.50,000/- to the Appellant for limited deficiency in service on the part of Respondent in handing over the documents without authorization to a broker in London instead of to the consignee bank.  We see no reason to interfere with this order of the State Commission which has also been accepted by the Respondent.  We therefore, uphold the order of the State Commission in toto.  The First Appeal is accordingly dismissed.

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