Rs. 2 Crores compensation for a bad haircut? Maybe! But not in absence of material supporting claim of loss suffered; Supreme Court asks NCDRC to decide matter afresh

In the case at hand, the woman had sought Rs. 3 Crores compensation, claiming that as a result of the bad haircut, she could not continue to lead her normal busy life as she no longer looked pretty; she had to face great humiliation and embarrassment; her career in the world of modelling was completely shattered; she went into a state of depression. NCDRC had awarded her Rs. 2 Crore compensation but without any material being produced by the woman to quantify the compensation.

Supreme Court: In a bizarre case, where a woman, a model by profession, had sought Rs. 3 Crores compensation for receiving a ‘bad haircut’, the bench of Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath*, JJ has held that though there may be deficiency in service, but NCDRC’s award of Rs. 2 Crores as compensation, that too, in the absence of any material to support the loss suffered by her in terms of modelling assignments that she had lost or the emoluments received by her for per past assignments, would be extremely excessive and disproportionate.


The woman visited the saloon of the Hotel ITC Maurya, New Delhi on 12.04.2018 for hair styling so that she would have a clean and groomed appearance before the interview panel where she was to appear after a week.

As her usual hair dresser was not available that day, she was assigned another hair dresser to whom she gave specific instructions in the following terms: “long flicks/layers covering her face in the front and at the back and 4- inch straight hair trim from the bottom”.

The woman was instructed to keep her head down and as she wears high powered spectacles (removed at the time of hairstyling), she could not clearly see herself in the mirror as to what the hair dresser was actually doing. When the hair styling was complete, to her utter surprise, she noticed that her entire hair was chopped off leaving only 4 inches from the top and barely touching to her shoulders which was quite contrary to the instructions given by her. Upon complaint, the Manager did not raise any bill.

She claimed that as a result of the faulty haircut, she could not continue to lead her normal busy life as she no longer looked pretty; she had to face great humiliation and embarrassment; her career in the world of modelling was completely shattered; she went into a state of depression.

When she raised a complaint again, the salon offered her services for extension of hair for the interview and also for free treatment to which she apparently agreed.

However, she was once again left disappointed as excess Ammonia was used during the treatment which completely damaged her hair and scalp resulting into lot of irritation and burning in the scalp. She again complained about the damage caused whereafter a spray was used which gave her temporary relief. Thereafter, her hair had become hard and rough and the respondent could not even run her fingers through it.

Allegedly, the discontentment and the annoyance expressed by the respondent was not taken well. The staff was abusive, rude and disrespectful. She was also threatened to face consequences on visit to ITC, Maurya.

Left with no option, the woman filed a complaint before the NCDRC alleging deficiency in service, seeking written apology from the management as also compensation of Rs.3 crores for harassment, humiliation, mental trauma, loss of career, loss of income and loss of future prospects.

NCDRC’s order

The NCDRC, based upon the evidence led which included the affidavits, photographs, CCTV footage, whatsapp chats and other material on record, came to the conclusion that there was deficiency in service.

To her relief, the NCDRC awarded a lumpsum compensation of Rs.2 crores to be sufficient to meet the ends of justice after observing that

“On account of the deficiency in service and the damage caused to her hair styling, she lost her expected assignments and suffered a huge loss which completely changed her lifestyle and shattered her dream to be a top model. She was also working as Senior Management Professional and earning a decent income. The NCDRC further recorded that the respondent 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.”

Supreme Court’s Analysis

When the matter travelled to the Supreme Court, it refused to go into the question as to whether there was a deficiency in service or not as that would be a question of fact and has already been dealt with by the NCDRC. It, however, decided the question that, on account of such deficiency in service, what would be an adequate compensation taking nto consideration the various claims made by the woman, either under different heads or a lumpsum amount.

The Court noticed that there was no reference to or discussion on any material evidence to quantify the compensation in the NCDRC order.

In fact, the Supreme Court repeatedly requested the woman, who was appearing in person, to produce the material regarding her advertising and modelling assignments in the past or for which she had entered into a contract or agreement for the present and future with any of the brands to show her expected loss. But she utterly failed to produce the same.

It, hence, observed that,

“In the absence of any material with regard to her existing job, the emoluments received by her, any past, present or future assignments in modeling which the respondent was likely to get or even the interview letter for which the respondent alleges she had gone to the saloon to make herself presentable, it would be difficult to quantify or assess the compensation under these heads. What could be quantified was compensation under the head of pain, suffering and trauma. However, amount of Rs. 2 Crores would be extremely excessive and disproportionate.”

Holding that the NCDRC fell in error by awarding compensation to the tune of Rs. 2 crores without there being any material to substantiate and support the same or which could have helped the NCDRC to quantify the compensation, the Court observed that,

“The NCDRC discussed regarding the importance of hair in a woman’s life and also that it could be an asset for building a career in modelling and advertising industry but then quantification of compensation has to be based upon material evidence and not on the mere asking.”

Hence, left with no option but to set aside the order of NCDRC awarding Rs.2 crores as compensation for loss of income, mental breakdown and trauma and pain and suffering, the Court remitted the matter to the NCDRC to give an opportunity to the woman to lead evidence with respect to her claim of Rs.3 crores, after observing that if the woman has material to substantiate her claim, she may be given an opportunity to produce the same. Once deficiency in service is proved then she is entitled to be suitably compensated under different heads admissible under law.

[ITC Ltd v. Aashna Roy, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 108, decided on 07.02.2023]

*Judgment authored by: Justice Vikram Nath

Know Thy Judge | Justice Vikram Nath

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellant: Senior Advocates K.V.Viswanathan and Debal Kumar Banerji

For Respondent: Aashna Roy, appearing-in-person

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One comment

  • This case underscores the broader affect of client disputes past financial compensation. It’s exciting to see how criminal complaints are addressing now not simply monetary loss however additionally psychological misery and its ripple effects. Kudos to the criminal machine for recognizing the multi-faceted nature of such cases.

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