24 Nov 2022 6:11 AM GMT
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Chandigarh recently directed the Haryana State Transport to pay a compensation of Rs 15000 to a passenger, who complained regarding smoking inside a bus and at bus stands in Jind and Pehowa. It also directed the authorities to deposit Rs. 60,000 with PGI Chandigarh in its Poor Patient Welfare Fund (PPWF) for the treatment of...
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Chandigarh recently directed the Haryana State Transport to pay a compensation of Rs 15000 to a passenger, who complained regarding smoking inside a bus and at bus stands in Jind and Pehowa. It also directed the authorities to deposit Rs. 60,000 with PGI Chandigarh in its Poor Patient Welfare Fund (PPWF) for the treatment of cancer patients.
Hisar resident Ashok Kumar Prajapat had filed three appeals against the dismissal of his complaints by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission-II at Chandigarh. In one of the complaints, he alleged that while travelling from Chandigarh to Jind in the bus of Haryana State Transport, one of the passengers started smoking and the same was reported to the authorities, who imposed a fine of Rs. 200 on the conductor as a mere formality, without recommending any measures to stop smoking in buses in future.
In the other complaint, Prajapat raised the issue of passive smoking at Jind Bus Stand and Pehowa Bus Stand. He said passengers were smoking in public place. It was also alleged the driver of the bus was smoking at Jind Bus Stand. In the third complaint, he alleged that he was charged an excess amount towards the bus fare.
Haryana State Transport, on the other hand, submitted that the conductor of the bus was immediately fined Rs. 1000 for sitting on the first seat. The allegations in the other complaints were denied by the authorities in absence of any proof of smoking. In connection with the bus fare, the authorities submitted that the same was charged as per the fare list. Further, the authorities also argued that the complainant was not a consumer since no services were availed by him in the first place.
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, noting the gravity of the matter, ordered the authorities to pay a sum of Rs. 15000 as compensation and cost of litigation to the complainant. The Commission said that:
"There are serious consequential results of passive smoking namely, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis; Lungs Cancer; Heart Disease, Stroke, Asthma and also increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infections in infants such as bronchitis and pneumonia and also low-birth-weight babies etc."
The State Commission said it is not satisfied with the observations made by the District Commission while rejecting the complaints.
"The District Commission is not understanding the gravity of the matter and rather ignoring the fact, despite numerous judgments passed by this Commission with regard to hazardous effects of passive smoking in umpteen number of cases filed by the appellant earlier also, that passive smoking gives birth to many serious diseases," it said.
On the argument that complainant is not a 'consumer' within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the State Commission held that the complainant was very much a consumer as per Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act since he duly availed the services of the respondents against consideration which was paid in the form of the ticket he purchased to travel.
"It is also imperative to mention here that mere imposing fine of Rs.200/- or Rs.1,000/- by the respondents/Department is not enough to put a curb on passive smoking in buses and bus-stands or at public places, where the buses take halt, rather, the department after imposing the prescribed fine once or twice on such defaulting & erring drivers and conductors or their staff, should set an example by taking stern disciplinary action against them, so that they may not dare to repeat such a mistake in future," the Commission said further
Ruling that fundamental right of the complainant under Article 21 was infringed, the Commission placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Murli S. Deora v. Union of India and Others, where the Court had put a bar on smoking in public places, public conveyances and railways and had issued directions to take effective steps to prohibit smoking in public places. Reliance was also placed on various WHO Resolutions and the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.
While partly allowing the appeals and directing the authorities to compensate the consumer, the State Commission said:
"Director General, Haryana State Transport is directed to confirm within 30 days, from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order, the steps taken to stop smoking at public places, state buses, bus stands in Haryana, in compliance to the Supreme Court directions in Murli S. Deora v. Union of India and Others case (supra), the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 and guidelines for implementation thereof".
Case Titles: Ashok Kumar Prajapat v. Director General, Haryana State Transport and Another
Citations: Appeal Nos. 41, 42 and 43 of 2022
Click Here To Read/Download the Order