Haj Pilgrims are Not Consumers within Consumer Protection Act, 1986; Rules Apex Consumer Court

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The grievance of some pilgrims who travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Haj Pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India was that in Saudi Arabia they were not accommodated in ‘green category’ which they had opted for but were instead kept in ‘Azizia category’ where the facilities available in green category were not provided.  The complainants therefore filed a consumer complaint, seeking refund of Rs.22,362/- alleged to have been collected in excess from them.

The present appeal was adjudicated by Hon’ble Justice V.K. Jain on 4th June 2018 at New Delhi.

The petitioner that is the Haj Committee Of India took a preliminary objection that the complainants were not consumers within the meaning of Consumer Protection Act. On account of the rate of Riyal having gone high, the cost increased than what the complainants had paid for being accommodated in green category.

The District Forum having dismissed the complaint, the complainants approached the concerned State Commission by way of an appeal.  The State Commission allowed the said appeal and directed refund of Rs.22,362/- along with additional compensation and litigation costs.Being aggrieved the petitioner, therefore, appealed before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) by way of the present revision petition.

As per Section 2(1)(d) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a consum­er means any person who hires or avails of any services for a consideration fully or partly paid/promised or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person.

The Court observed:

“It would thus be seen that the Haj Committee is rendering services without any profit motive and is collecting only the actual expenses incurred by it, on making arrangements for the Haj Pilgrimage.  No fee or service charges are being collected by Haj Committee of India from the pilgrims, for reducing its services to them.  Therefore, the complainants cannot be said to be the consumer of the Haj Committee of India within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act…the complainants themselves had agreed to the above referred position and accepted that they would not claim any compensation from Haj Committee under the Consumer Protection Act.”

The NCDRC, thus, set aside the order of the lower court and held that the “Consumer Forum would have no jurisdiction to entertain a complaint of this nature”. The complainants can, however, approach the Civil Courts for remedy.