National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) while going with the relevant instructions of the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, ruled in SpiceJet Ltd. v. Dinesh Kumar & Anr that Aadhaar card is not a valid document for travel to Nepal/Bhutan.
Commission was hearing a revision petition against the order of the State Commission of Punjab. The point of contention was that the complainant namely Dinesh Kumar had booked a ticket Delhi- – Kathmandu – Delhi through the online travel co., departing from Delhi on 05.07.2013. He had produced his e-ticket and Aadhaar card at the airlines company's check-in counter. The airlines company did not accept Aadhaar card as a valid/acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal (Kathmandu) and refused to issue a boarding pass.
The District Forum vide its Order dated 30.09.2014 allowed the complaint, holding the airlines company liable, and dismissed the complaint against the online travel company. The State Commission vide its Order dated 22.01.2016 dismissed the appeal of the airlines company. The present revision petition was filed by the airlines company under section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 before National Commission against the said Order dated 22.01.2016 of the State Commission.
The relevant information printed on the e-ticket, issued by the online travel company made it mandatory to carry Government recognized photo identification (ID) along with E-Ticket. This, it read, can include: Driving License, Passport, PAN Card, Voter ID Card or any other ID issued by the Government of India. For infant passengers, it is mandatory to carry the Date of Birth certificate.
Aadhar not a valid document for travel to Nepal
Commission while passing the order noted that the information on the e-ticket does not specifically mention Aadhaar card to be a valid / acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal and the instructions of the Bureau of Immigration specifically proscribe Aadhaar (UID) card as a valid / acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal / Bhutan.
Rejecting the argument made on behalf of the complainant that "Aadhaar card" falls within "any other ID issued by Government of India" mentioned on the e-ticket as "erroneous", Commission said that Aadhaar number is a 12-digit random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down by the said Authority, and can in no manner be construed to be "any other ID issued by the Government of India" in the specific context of it being a valid / acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal.
It also said that there is no regulation made under the Act of 2016 declaring Aadhaar card (number) as a valid / acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal nor do airline companies have access to the Aadhaar database.
"… there is no linkage between airlines cos. and the Aadhaar database for any purpose including for the purpose of treating Aadhaar card as a valid / acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal. 8. And, in all contingencies, the instructions of the Bureau of Immigration, which specifically preclude aadhaar card as a valid / acceptable travel document, supersede any information etc. written by any online travel co. etc. on its e-tickets."
Commission, however, cleared that it has no intention to critique Aadhar card and that a treatise on 'Aadhaar card' would be ill-conceived and misplaced on the part of a quasi – judicial tribunal in the present facts and context of the case before it.
Commission found that the District Forum has erred in allowing the complaint against the airlines company and the State Commission has erred in dismissing the appeal of the airlines company and set aside the orders of both District Forum and the State Commission.
It also found the complaint filed by the complainant Dinesh Kumar to be frivolous and vexatious within the meaning of section 26 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 dealing with dismissal of frivolous or vexatious complaints.
Commission dismissed the complaint with stern advice of caution to the complainant through imposition of cost of Rs.10,000/- to be deposited by the complainant with the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the District Forum within four weeks of the pronouncement of this Order, the objective being to emphasize that consumer protection fora are not meant to be tools for creating nuisance by filing frivolous and vexatious complaints.
Petitioner was represented by advocate Maibam N. Singh and respondents by advocates Ajay Gupta and Sharique Hussain in the case.
Click here to download the order