These days, banks take bad haircuts, but here is one instance when a company, ITC Ltd, has a bad haircut, not to a bank, but to a customer who is a model. The person whose tresses suffered at the hands of the bad snipper not once but twice, took ITC to the highest court, asking for hefty damages.

But the apex court, regardless of its empathy, has ‘law’ to consider.

The incident

It was on a fateful day in April 2018, when Aashana Roy (who has modelled for VLCC and Pantene) walked into the saloon of ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi — whose regular customer she apparently was — seeking a smart haircut, one that would give her an edge in a job interview she would take a week later. But fate willed otherwise.

With her regular hairdresser, Alem, not being available that day, Roy settled for the services of one Christine, with whom she had had bad experience earlier — she agreed only because the manager assured her that Christine had improved her craft.

Christine instructed Roy to keep her head bowed — she was going to give Roy the “London haircut” — but when Roy eventually lifted her head, she found to her horror that Christine had “chopped off her entire hair, leaving only four inches from the top, contrary to the instructions given by her”.

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A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath, said in their verdict: “According to the respondent (Roy), as a result of the faulty haircut, the respondent 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.”

Round 2

Regardless, Roy, who believes that the saloon made money by selling her hair, went to the same saloon again a few months later, when again she had a terrible experience. Vicky, the man who provided the service this time, rubbed her scalp in such a manner that his nails broke the skin. When ammonia treatment happened later, the gas got into the lacerations and caused a burning sensation.

She then approached the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), asking for a compensation of ₹3 crore. The commission awarded her ₹2 crore, which ITC challenged at the Supreme Court. Here comes the point of law. Roy, who insisted on arguing for herself and even rejected free legal counsel offered by the Supreme Court, has been told that while she might deserve to be compensated, as the deficiency in service was not in dispute, the amount could not be whatever she demanded.

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The verdict said: “If she (Roy) has material to substantiate, her claim may be given an opportunity to produce the same. Once deficiency in service is proved, then the respondent is entitled to be suitably compensated under different heads admissible under law. Question is on what basis and how much. Let this quantification be left to the wisdom of the NCDRC based upon material if any, that may be placed before it by the respondent.”