The Supreme Court has set aside an order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) awarding Rs two crore as compensation to a model for the loss of income and pain suffered due to a faulty hair cut at a hotel salon here in 2018.
While observing that it was not inclined to interfere with the commission’s finding regarding ”deficiency in service” by the salon at ITC Maurya, the apex court remitted the matter to the NCDRC to give an opportunity to the woman to lead evidence with respect to her claim for compensation.
It said the NCDRC may thereafter take a fresh decision in accordance with the material placed on record on the issue of quantification of compensation.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath delivered the verdict on an appeal filed by ITC Ltd against the September 2021 order passed by the NCDRC on a complaint filed by Aashna Roy.
Tyre burst human negligence, not act of God, says HC rejecting insurance firm's plea against compensation
Morbi bridge collapse: HC orders Oreva Group to pay Rs 10 lakh 'interim' compensation to kin of each deceased
CUET to be conducted in 3 shifts; merger with JEE, NEET to be announced 2 yrs in advance: UGC chief
”From a perusal of the impugned order of the NCDRC we do not find reference to or discussion on any material evidence to quantify the compensation,” the bench said in its judgement delivered on Tuesday.
It noted the top court had repeatedly requested Roy, who was appearing in person, to refer to material which she had placed before NCDRC with respect to her present job at the time when she undertook the hair styling on April 12, 2018.
The bench said the court had also required her to produce the material regarding her advertising and modelling assignments in the past or for which she had entered into a contract or agreement for the present and future with any of the brands to show her expected loss.
”The respondent (Roy) utterly failed to demonstrate from the record filed before the NCDRC or before this court regarding the above queries,” it said.
The bench said in the absence of any material with regard to her existing job, the emoluments received by her, any past, present or future assignments in modelling which she was likely to get or even the interview letter for which she alleges she had gone to the salon to make herself presentable, it would be difficult to quantify or assess the compensation under these heads.
”What could be quantified was compensation under the head of pain, suffering and trauma. However, an amount of Rs 2 crore would be extremely excessive and disproportionate,” it said.
”This court, therefore, is of the view that the NCDRC fell in error by awarding compensation to the tune of Rs 2 crore without there being any material to substantiate and support the same or which could have helped the NCDRC to quantify the compensation,” the bench said.
It said the NCDRC had discussed the importance of hair in a woman’s life and also that it could be an asset for building a career in modelling and advertising industry, but quantification of compensation has to be based upon material evidence and not on the mere asking.
The apex court said it was of the view that the woman, if she has material to substantiate her claim, may be given an opportunity to produce the same. ”Once deficiency in service is proved then the respondent is entitled to be suitably compensated under different heads admissible under law. Question is on what basis and how much. Let this quantification be left to the wisdom of the NCDRC based upon material if any that may be placed before it by the respondent,” it said.
”In view of the above, we are left with no option but to set aside the order of NCDRC awarding Rs 2 crore as compensation for loss of income, mental breakdown and trauma and pain and suffering,” the bench said.
It said in case such evidence is led, then adequate right of rebuttal be given to ITC Ltd. The apex court noted that Roy had visited the salon here on April 12, 2018 for hair styling so that she would have a clean and groomed appearance before an interview panel where she was to appear after a week. It further noted that the woman had given specific instructions to the hair dresser and when the hair styling was complete, Roy noticed that her entire hair was chopped off leaving only four inches from the top and barely touching her shoulders which was quite contrary to the instructions given by her. The apex court noted that according to the woman, as a result of the faulty haircut, she had to face great humiliation and embarrassment, her career in the modelling world was completely shattered and she went into a state of depression.
It noted the salon later offered her services for extension of hair for the interview and also free treatment to which she apparently agreed and went for hair treatment on May 3, 2018.
It also noted that according to complaint, excess ammonia was used during the treatment which completely damaged her hair and scalp resulting in a lot of irritation and burning in the scalp. Roy later filed a complaint before the NCDRC alleging deficiency in service.
The apex court noted that before the NCDRC, ITC Ltd had raised several objections including doubting the status of the woman being a consumer as the services rendered were free of charge and also that claim of compensation was highly exorbitant and no documentary evidence had been adduced for such claim.
It said the NCDRC had come to the conclusion that there was deficiency in service. ”We are not inclined to interfere with the said finding regarding deficiency in service as the same is based upon appreciation of evidence and thus would be a pure question of fact,” the bench said.