MANU/SC/1126/2011

True Court CopyTM EnglishUJ

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Civil Appeal No. 1909 of 2004

Decided On: 15.09.2011

Appellants: Trans Mediterranean Airways
Vs.
Respondent: Universal Exports and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Dattu

JUDGMENT

H.L. Dattu, J.

1. This appeal is filed under Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as "the C P Act") against the order in Original Petition No. 161 of 1994 of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi ("the National Commission" for short) dated 15th January, 2004, whereby the National Commission has directed the Appellant to pay a sum equivalent to US $71,615.75 with 5% interest from the date of the complaint, till its realization, and imposed costs of `1 lakh for deficiency of service.

2. The Appellant before us is an International Cargo carrier, with its principal place of business at Beirut, Lebanon. Respondent No. 1 is a garment exporter and Respondent No. 2 is an accredited International Air Transport Association agent. By this appeal, we are called upon to examine and reconcile the area of operation of the C P Act on the one hand, and the Carriage by Air Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as "the CA Act") along with the Warsaw Convention of 1929 (hereinafter referred to as "the Warsaw Convention") on the other. The Appellant, Respondent No. 1 and Respondent No. 2, hereinafter, for the sake of brevity, referred to as "Appellant carrier", "the consignor" and "agent" respectively.

3. The core issues that arise for our consideration and decision in this appeal are:

1. Whether the National Commission under the CP Act has the jurisdiction to entertain and decide a complaint filed by the consignor claiming compensation for deficiency of service by the carrier, in view of the provisions of the CA Act and the Warsaw Convention.

Or whether domestic laws can be added to or substituted for the provisions of the conventions.

2. Whether the Appellant can be directed to compensate the consignor for deficiency of service in the facts and circumstances of the case.

Brief Facts

4. The facts leading to this appeal are as follows:

The agent made out three airway bills for shipping of garments to Spain on behalf of the consignor through the Appellant-carrier. In the consignee column, the consignment was addressed as:

BB SAE MADRID, SPAIN
NOTIFY: M/S LIWE ESPANOLA S.A.,
MAYOR S/N, 30006 PUENTE TOCINOR
APARTADO, 741, MORCIA, SPAIN,
L.C. No. C. 1036-92-00276

In the box titled 'Handling Information', the following information was recorded:

MARKS: SPAIN N/C NOS: 1027-1185
TOTAL ONE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE CARTONS
ONLY/PLS INF CNEE IMM ON ARR/DOCUMENTS
ATTACHED

The airway bills from Bombay to Amsterdam were dated 25-08-1992 and the consignment through the Appellant-carrier reached Amsterdam on 30-08-1992. From Amsterdam, the consignments were sent to Madrid by road on the following day, and they reached Madrid on 03-09-1992 and were cleared by the Customs Authorities. The Appellant-carrier delivered the consignment to M/s Liwe Espanola, as according to them, that was the only recognizable address available from the documents furnished by the consignor.

5. After nine months from the date of shipment, the agent made enquiry regarding two of the three airway bills. Since there was No. response, the agent made further enquiry again after four months. In respon........