Supreme Court set aside order of NCDRC awarding compensation of Rs. 2 crores awarded to a lady model for a bad haircut

Supreme Court set aside order of NCDRC awarding compensation of Rs. 2 crores awarded to a lady model for a bad haircut

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (NCDRC) ruling awarding compensation of Rs. 2 crores to a lady model for a substandard haircut and hair treatment she received at a 5-star hotel in Delhi was set aside by the Supreme Court on 7th February 2023.

A Division Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath noted that the determination should be based on evidence and not only the Respondent consumer's allegations while remitting the matter back to the NCDRC for a new assessment of the compensation amount.

"The NCDRC discussed regarding 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 then quantification of compensation has to be based upon material evidence and not on the mere asking".

The Supreme Court initially indicated that it did not want to address the issue of whether or not service was substandard because the NCDRC had already looked into it.

The next question was - what would be appropriate compensation for the said deficiency? "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 noted.

So, prior to the respondent's visit to the salon in 2018, a series of inquiries were made about her modelling assignments and her previous employment. The Court observed that she was unable to cite these records. 

Without it, it would be challenging to calculate or evaluate the compensation under the aforementioned heading, leaving just pain and suffering. Even then, the Bench opined, the sum of Rs. 2 crores would be exorbitant and unfair.

"What could be quantified was compensation under the head of pain, suffering, and trauma. However, an amount of Rs. 2 Crores would be extremely excessive and disproportionate. This Court, therefore, is of the view that the NCDRC fell in error by awarding compensation to the tune of Rs.2 crores without there being any material to substantiate and support the same or which could have helped the NCDRC to quantify the compensation".

Although legal help was available, the Bench indicated in its order that Roy had declined to engage any counsel's services, which may have precluded her from understanding how to establish her claims for the compensation requested. ITC Limited was represented by senior attorneys KV Viswanathan and Debal Kumar Banerji.

“In view of the above, we are left with no option but to set aside the order of NCDRC awarding Rs.2 crores as compensation for loss of income, mental breakdown and trauma and pain and suffering”, The Supreme Court Registry was instructed by the court to forward the case to the NCDRC along with the Rs. 25 lakhs that ITC had paid when the appeal's notice was issued. 

The bench instructed Roy to present his evidence before the NCDRC, which will then determine the compensation amount.

"In the facts of the case, we are of the view that the respondent 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."

On April 12, 2018, Aashna Roy, the respondent, went to the Hotel ITC Maurya's Salon. She hired a different stylist because her regular hairdresser/stylist wasn't available, despite the fact that she had previously been dissatisfied with her work. On the manager's guarantee that the new stylist had much improved, she decided to hire him. 

When Roy discovered that the hairdresser had, in direct violation of her directions, "chopped off her whole hair leaving only 4 inches from the top and barely touching to her shoulders," she was "utterly shocked." She claimed that this resulted in extreme shame and embarrassment and "totally ruined" her modelling career. She became depressed as a result of this.

Case Title: ITC Limited vs Aashna Roy
Citation: Civil Appeal No. 6391 OF 2021

Read the complete order on this link/tab

Appearance of the Advocates:-

For Appellant(s)

Mr. K.V.Viswanathan, Sr.Adv.
Mr. Debal Kumar Banerji, Sr.Adv.
Mr. L K Bhushan, Adv.
Ms. Raashi Beri, aDv.
M/S. Dua Associates, AOR

For Respondent(s)

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