An Indian model was awarded 20 million rupees in 2021 as compensation for bad haircut and hair treatment in a luxury salon. But the Supreme Court of India considered it excessive and disproportionate as it lacked material to assess the amount of the compensation.
The Supreme Court of India on February 7 set aside the 20 million rupees (270,000 dollars at the time of decision) awarded to a model as compensation for a bad haircut and poor hair treatment in a five-star hotel in Delhi that led to “loss of income, mental breakdown and trauma and pain and suffering.”
The highest jurisdiction of India considered the compensation “extremely excessive and disproportionate” as it “has to be based upon material evidence and not on the mere asking,” according to the ruling.
Aashna Roy is an Indian model who visited the Hotel ITC Maurya in New Delhi in 2018 where she was used to going for hair styling. But she ended up facing “great humiliation and embarrassment”, her career in the world of modeling was “completely shattered,” and she went into a “state of depression.”
She came to the beauty salon for a “clean and groomed appearance” before an interview panel where she was to appear a week later. She asked for Ms. Alem, the hairdresser who usually cut her hair but she was not available. Ms. Christine was assigned to her hairstyling instead, as the salon manager assured her she had shown great improvement compared to previous occasions when the model was not satisfied with her work.
Aashna Roy asked for long flicks/layers covering her face in the front and at the back and a 4-inch (10 centimeters) straight hair trim from the bottom. But Ms. Roy removed her high-powered spectacles during the haircut, and after an hour, when she asked why it was taking so long, the hairdresser said she was doing the “London haircut”. She had chopped off her entire hair leaving only 4 inches from the top and barely touched the hair on her shoulders.
The model complained to the manager and also claimed her hair was being sold by the salon.
No proof of the loss of income because of the haircut
The salon later offered her a free hair extension and free hair treatment for her interview. She went there two weeks after the previous poor experience. But it turned out to be another fiasco. Excess Ammonia was used. It resulted in a lot of irritation and burning in her scalp, the hair became hard and rough so that Ms. Roy “could not even run her fingers through it.”
The model, therefore, filed a complaint to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) for “harassment, humiliation, mental trauma, loss of career, loss of income and loss of future prospects.” She sought compensation of 30 million rupees (362,000 dollars at current exchange rate).
The consumer rights commission related to a previous judgment that referred to the “importance of hair in the life of women and also the emotions and sentiments attached to it.” It also considered the poor services “shattered her dream to be a top model,” and that she “underwent severe mental breakdown and trauma due to the negligence in the services provided to her and as a result of which she also lost her job.”
According to the NCDRC, Aashna Roy worked for hair products as she had been a model for VLCC, an Indian beauty and skincare company, and the brand Pantene thanks to her long hair. She was also working as a senior management professional and earning a decent income.
In 2021, the commission then awarded 20 million rupees (270,000 dollars at the time of the decision, 241,000 dollars at current exchange rate) in compensation to Ms. Roy.
ITC Limited, the Indian group of luxury hotels running the Maurya among the 78 it manages appealed the decision. The company was represented by lawyers while Ms. Roy appeared in person and argued the matter herself.
The Supreme Court recognized there was a deficiency in service, which was based on affidavits, photographs, CCTV footage, WhatsApp chats, and other material on record. However, the Court found the amount “extremely excessive and disproportionate” for compensating her pain, suffering and trauma. The Court considered the NCDRC fell in error to award such a large compensation while there is no material to substantiate the financial losses or quantify the compensation.
The model couldn’t provide any material with regard to her existing job, the emoluments she received, any past, present or future advertising and modeling assignments the respondent was likely to get, or even the interview letter for which the respondent alleges she had gone to the salon to make herself presentable.
There was no request for medical records or evidence related to mental health issues, burning sensation and irritation in her scalp that the defendant also pleaded.
The Supreme Court remitted the matter to the NCDRC to give an opportunity to the respondent to lead evidence with respect to her claim.