Seven years after Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister of Bihar, suffered a spinal cord injury while being ferried by a shuttle bus at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) to board a flight, the consumer disputes redressal forum (New Delhi) has asked JetLite to compensate the BJP leader with Rs 1.5 lakh for “negligent conduct and hurting the feelings of passengers in taking his trauma lightly”.
Modi, who was on the bus with two other senior BJP leaders (now cabinet ministers) — Ravi Shankar Prasad and Kalraj Mishra — on December 2, 2007, fell and hit a pole inside a JetLite bus when the bus driver, who was allegedly speaking on his mobile while driving, was forced to brake hard to avoid hitting an Air Deccan aircraft.
“The complainant who was standing in the bus fell and hit the pole supporting the hard railing at the rear of the coach. He suffered spinal cord injury and pain,” Modi’s counsel told the court, adding that Modi had to abort the journey. Modi then had to be admitted to the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj.
The case, titled ‘Sushil Modi versus Jet Airways Ltd, Jet Lite and Delhi International Airport Ltd’, dragged on for so many years that JetLite denied negligence on part of its bus driver. The three opposite parties submitted their respective responses to the court, following which the court held JetLite liable to pay the compensation.
C K Chaturvedi, the president of the forum, has held JetLite guilty of “deficiency and imperfect services to complainant passenger (Modi)”. It has awarded Modi a compensation of Rs 1 lakh along with another Rs 50,000 as litigation expenses.
Chaturvedi took note of the fact that Modi was peeved by the behaviour of the airlines, which instead of extending sympathy or help, “issued false press statements denying need of any medicine or help and stated falsely that he was offered a seat in the ferry which he declined or that he declined medical treatment from the respondent” Chaturvedi added that, “He (Modi) seeks damages for the loss, high pain, and mental agony suffered on account of accident due to negligent act of the employee”.
The counsel for Jetlite had stated that the alleged trauma caused only a muscle spasm and no internal spinal cord injuries; for which a local gel was enough. He added that Modi would have gotten the expenses reimbursed by the government itself. After considering the arguments put forth by the counsels of both parties, the forum observed “It is patent that the complainant was suffering an old orthopaedic problem, related to age and spine but it was sudden application of brakes by the coach driver that a serious trauma was caused to the physical frame of Sushil Modi, accompanied with pain and need of medical attention”.
“The three MPs have stated on oath that he (the driver) was talking on phone, oblivious to the presence of other aircraft and only on getting too near (an aircraft), used brakes to avoid collision… Carrying passengers to planes by aerobridge or coach is part of service (of an airline),” Chaturvedi’s order says.