Case nº Original Petition No. 179 of 1994 and Original Petition No. 2 of 1996 of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, November 09, 2012 (case 1. C. Venuprasad General Manager (Operations) Premier Vinyl Flooring Ltd. C-2, Commercial Centre Safdarjung Development Area New Delhi-110016 and Ors., 2. M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. Regd. Office at Ambassador Hotel Churchgate, Mumbai - 400020 Vs 1. M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. Regd. Office : The Ambassador, Churchgate Mumbai-400020, 2. OTIS Elevator Co. (India) Ltd. Head Office at Rehem Mansion 1, 42, SBS Road Mumbai-400039)

PresidentMr. R.C. Jain, Presiding Member and Mr. S.K. Naik, Member
Resolution DateNovember 09, 2012

Order:

S.K. Naik, Member

  1. Failure of proper upkeep and maintenance of the lifts in the Ambassador Hotel, Mumbai, owned and managed by M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. is at the center of controversy in these two complaints. In OP No. 179 of 1994, complainants no. 1 to 10 were guests of the hotel. Their twofold allegations are that during the stay of complainants no. 1 to 9 in the Ambassador Hotel, on the 28th of February, 1994 there was a breakdown of power supply from 0030 hours till 0645 hours without any alternate arrangement of back up power supply, as a result of which they had to pass through a harrowing time and had to spend a restless night. As if this was not enough, on the same day while travelling in the lift from the lobby to the revolving restaurant on the 12th floor, complainants no. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 got stuck/trapped midway between the 11th and 12th floor for two and a half hours, which was traumatic and the rescue operation was harrowing. Alleging gross deficiency in service, those who were trapped inside the lift and their relatives who were anxiously waiting outside and watching the sluggish rescue operation have filed OP No. 179 of 1994 seeking compensation of Rs. 43,00,000/- from the OP Hotel. Since the alleged deficiency primarily centered around the failure of the lift, the hotel in turn has filed OP No. 2 of 1996 against the OTIS Elevator Co. (India) Ltd., who had installed the lifts and had been entrusted with the task of maintenance on payment of consideration. Thus, while the ten guests of the hotel, target the hotel for the gross deficiency in service and have claimed damages/compensation, the hotel by filing OP No. 2 of 1996 has tried to pass on the blame/deficiency to the OTIS Elevator Company (India) Ltd. Thus, these two complaints are closely linked and, therefore, we proceed to decide them by this common order.

  2. Facts of the case are that in OP No. 179 of 1994, complainants no. 1 to 9 while on a visit to Mumbai in connection with a wedding in the family of a common friend were lodged in the Ambassador Hotel during the last week of February, 1994. While staying there, on the 28th of February, 1994 there was a breakdown of power supply from 0030 hours to 0645 hours. There being no alternate back up power arrangement, all of them had to spend restless night and complainant no. 2 had an attack of asthma as a result thereof. The matter was brought to the notice of the management, including in writing. However, what precipitated the indignation was what followed the same day i.e. on 28 of February, 1994. At 1230 hours complainants no. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 got into the lift at the lobby level to go for lunch in the revolving restaurant on the 12th floor. The lift moved up for a while and came to an abrupt halt with a jerk between the 11th and 12th floor entrapping all of them. Attempt by the opposite party hotel to rescue the entrapped lift passengers was not only belated but very crude and it took two and a half hours for them to be taken out of the cabin of the lift by physically pulling them out one after the other through a hole which was made by ripping open/cutting the iron grill at the top of the cabin. The process involved a constant hammering of the iron grills/parts resulting in the glass panels inside the lift breaking into pieces falling on those entrapped. The atmosphere was intensely claustrophobic and abhorrent. Alleging that the two and a half hours of agony and trauma was as a result of gross deficiency in service, the complainants have filed OP No. 179 of 1994 seeking the following reliefs:-

    Compensation for deficiency in service on 28.2.94 from 1230 hrs to 1500 hrs as detailed in paragraphs 5(iii) to (x) ante in respect of

    a) Complainants 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 trapped in the lift @ Rs. Five lakhs each

    b) Complainants 1, 4, 8 and 9 who were outside and whose family member(s) was/were trapped @ Rs. two lakhs each 

    Rs.30,00,000/-

    Rs.8,00,000/- 

    II 

    Compensation for deficiency in service on 28.2.94 from 0030 hrs to 0645 hrs as detailed in paragraph 5(ii) ante in respect of complainants 1 to 9, the occupants of Rooms 405, 202 and 211 @ Rs.50,000 each  

    Rs.4,50,000/- 

    III 

    Costs for getting the matter adjudicated under the Consumer Protection Act @ Rs.5,000/- each 

    Rs.50,000/- 

     

    TOTAL 

    Rs.43,00,000/- 

  3. During the pendency of OP No. 179 of 1994, M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. filed OP No. 2 of 1996 against the OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. with whom they had entered into a maintenance contract for the proper maintenance of the lifts, which was the focus of deficiency suffered by its guests. M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. in their complaint have alleged that the lift was installed by the OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. and they had been entrusted with the task of annual maintenance under a contract and on account of the failure on their part to maintain it properly that the lift got stuck causing hardships to their guests and they, therefore, prayed for holding the OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. grossly negligent/deficient in rendering service and have sought a compensation as under:-

    1. 

    Rs.5.00 Lacs each for six guests entrapped for 2 and half hours from 1200 hrs 30 min. to 15 hours on 28/02/1994 in the lift 

    Rs.30,00,000.00 

    2. 

    Rs. 2.00 Lacs each to the four relatives and friends for mental agony 

    Rs.8,00,000.00 

    3. 

    Rs.50,000 towards cost to 10 guests for having the matter adjudicated under the Consumer Protection Act (Rs.5000 each) 

    Rs.50,000.00 

    4. 

    Legal expenses incurred by the complainants in OP No. 179 of 1994 and the present complaint 

    Rs.2,00,000.00 

     

    TOTAL 

    Rs.40,50,000.00 

  4. By the time M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. filed their complaint (OP No. 2 of 1996) against OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. in 1996, the pleadings with regard to complaint/OP No. 179 of 1994 had already been completed. However, in view of the allegation of negligence on part of OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. alleged by M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd., it took quite some time to complete the pleadings, which included examination and cross examination of the witnesses by M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd. and the OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd.

  5. In OP No. 179 of 1994, affidavits by way of evidence were filed by complainants no. 1 to 6 and 10. With regard to complainants no. 7 and 8, it was requested on their behalf that since complainant no. 7 had undergone a surgery, their affidavits filed along with the complaint be treated as their evidence. On behalf of the opposite party-M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd., affidavits of their Executive Engineer, the Chief Engineer and the General Manager have been filed.

  6. In OP No. 2 of 1996, on behalf of the complainant-M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd, affidavits of three persons i.e. their Executive Engineer, the Chief Engineer and the General Manager have been filed while on behalf of opposite party-OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd. affidavits by way of evidence have been filed by Mr. C.C. Johnson, examiner of OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd., Mr. B.R. Jadhav, customer service executive and Mr. A.R. Aundhkar, sales executive.

  7. Since all the affidavits by way of evidence were read together, complainants no. 1 to 4 and 10 and three persons, who had filed affidavits from the side of opposite party in OP No. 179 of 1994 were cross examined. Complainants no. 5 to 9 being foreign nationals were not produced for cross-examination. In OP No. 2 of 1996, apart from three witnesses of the complainant-M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt. Ltd., two out of the four officers of OP-OTIS Elevators Co. (India) Ltd., who had filed the affidavits, were also cross-examined.

  8. Learned counsel for the complainants in OP No. 179 of 1994 has contended that complainants no. 1 to 9 had preferred to stay in the hotel expecting that they would receive the best comfort of a star hotel commensurate with the tariff charged by the hotel but to their dismay at 0030 hours 28th of February, 1994 the power supply suddenly went off and they had to fend for themselves with great deal of discomfort until the morning. The opposite party hotel had no alternate/back up power supply and when complained about it, they explained it away by saying that there were frequent breakdown/power cuts from the source of supply and the local laws did not permit the owners of the hotel to install generators as an alternative. Learned counsel contends that the least the opposite party hotel ought to have done was to have informed them about the power cut in advance so that they would have been mentally prepared to face the situation. The attitude of the opposite party hotel thus cannot but be said to be indifferent and casual. In any case, when a tariff has been charged for AC accommodation, disruption of such facility amounted to withdrawal of that promised facility leading to deficiency in service.

  9. The incident of failure of power supply apart, learned counsel has referred to the incident of malfunctioning of the lift on 19th of February, 1994, 25th of February, 1994 and 26th of February, 1994, which was also brought to the notice of the opposite party hotel, which obviously had no impact as the subsequent incident of 28th of February, 1994 proved when the six complainants no. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 were entrapped for two and a half hours from 1230 hours onwards. It has been contended that...

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