BEFORE THE A.P. STATE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
F.A. 237/2007 against C.C. 82/2005, Dist. Forum, Warangal
1. The Post Master
Post Office Mattewada
2. The Superintendent of Post Offices
Warangal Town & Dist. *** Appellants/
@ Hanuman Singh
S/o. Late Kishan Singh
Age: 25 years, Business
Ellam Bazar, Warangal. *** Respondent/
Counsel for the Appellants: Mr. V. Vinod Kumar
Counsel for the Resp: M/s. CH. Sashibushan
F.A. 1345/2006 against C.C. 82/2005, Dist. Forum, Warangal
@ Hanuman Singh
S/o. Late Kishan Singh
Age: 25 years, Business
Ellam Bazar, Warangal. *** Appellant/
1. The Post Master
Post Office Mattewada
2. The Superintendent of Post Offices
Warangal Town & Dist. *** Respondents/
Counsel for the Appellant: M/s. CH. Sashibushan
Counsel for the Resp: Mr. V. Vinod Kumar
HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE D. APPA RAO, PRESIDENT
SMT. M. SHREESHA, MEMBER
SRI K. SATYANAND, MEMBER
MONDAY, THIS THE TWENTY SEVENTH DAY OF JULY TWO THOUSAND NINE
Oral Order: (Per Hon’ble Justice D. Appa Rao, President)
1) These cross-appeals, one preferred by the complainant F.A. No. 1345/2006 against inadequacy of the amount granted, while the respondents post office filed F.A. 237/2007 are against the order of the Dist. Forum directing them to pay Rs. 3,000/- towards damages with interest @ 9% p.a., and costs of Rs. 1,000/-
2) Since both parties have preferred appeals we describe the parties as arrayed in the original complaint before the Dist. Forum for felicity of expression, and are disposed of by this common order :
3) The case of the complainant in brief is that he took two demand drafts (DDs) for Rs. 25,000/- each drawn on State Bank of Hyderabad at Warangal in the name of Mr. Ravi Kumar payable at Ludhiana, SSI Branch. They were sent through registered post with acknowledgement due to Delhi address, however, it was not delivered. Despite several letters, the post office could not trace out and therefore he filed the complaint for directing the post office to pay Rs. 50,000/- towards the amount covered under the demand drafts and Rs. 1,50,000/- towards compensation with interest @ 18% p.a., till the date of realization with costs.
4) The respondent post office resisted the case. It admitted that the complainant sent a registered cover with acknowledgement due on 20.9.2003 addressed to Ganga Vishan Premchand, Sardar Bazar, Delhi-6. The Chief Post Master, Delhi informed the complainant on 27.12.2003 that the registered letter was not received. It was not aware as to the contents of the registered letter. Though the complainant alleged that the DDs were encashed on 9.10.2003 by a third party no action for recovery of the amount was taken. The liability of the post office for wrong delivery or loss of any article, an amount of Rs. 100/- will be paid towards compensation. They did not commit any deficiency in service and therefore prayed for dismissal of the complaint with costs.
4) The complainant in proof of his case filed his affidavit evidence and got Exs. A1 to A15 marked while the post office filed the affidavit evidence of one Ashok Kumar, Superintendent of Post Offices and filed Exs. B1 to B5.
5) The Dist. Forum after considering the evidence placed on record opined that the complainant had failed to establish that he had sent two DDs worth Rs. 50,000/- and therefore he could not claim the value. However, non-delivery of registered letter entails the post office to pay a compensation of Rs. 3,000/- and accordingly directed the post office to pay the same with interest @ 9% p.a., from the date of complaint till the date of realization together with costs of Rs. 1,000/-.
6) Aggrieved by the said decision the complainant preferred the appeal F.A. 1345/2006 contending that the very post office admitted that two DDs were sent in the name of Mr. Ravi Kumar by registered post with acknowledgement due and the same was lost. They were encashed by a third party and thus he sustained loss of Rs. 50,000/- and therefore he was entitled to the said amount together with compensation.
7) Equally the opposite party post office preferred the appeal F.A. No. 237/2007 contending that the Dist. Forum did not appreciate either the fact or law in correct perspective. Apart from that the fact that the complainant could not prove that he had sent two DDs by registered post, his own pleadings show that DDs were encashed at Ludhiana SSI branch on 1.10.2003 before the date of complaint. The complainant could not give any reason as to why he did not take any action against the bank. The amount covered under the DDs if any paid to a wrong person, would be the deficiency in service on the part of the bank, and the same cannot be mulcted on the post office. Section 6 of the Indian Post Offices Act absolves the liability on the part of post office for loss or mis-delivery of the article sent. The Dist. Forum ought to not have awarded any compensation, and therefore prayed that the complaint be dismissed.
8) The point that arises for consideration is whether the order of the Dist. Forum is vitiated from mis-appreciation of fact and law, and if so, who is entitled to the relief?
9) It is an undisputed fact that the complainant has sent a registered cover on 20.9.2003 addressed to Mr. Ravi Kumar, Ganga Vishan Prem Chand, 5685-B, @@@@hi Market, Sadar Bazar, Delhi. The complainant alleges that he had taken two DDs for Rs. 25,000/- each from State Bank of Hyderabad, Warangal branch in the name of Mr. Ravi Kumar, payable at Ludhiana SSI Branch evidenced under Ex. A1. The complainant alleges that he sent these two DDs in the said registered letter and the same was not delivered to the addressee. Some unauthorised person had encashed the amount and therefore he seeks the amount covered under the DDs besides compensation. When the complainant issued notice, the bank at Ludhiana had categorically stated that the amounts covered under the DDs were encashed at Ludhiana Branch on 1.10.2003.
10) On receipt of letter from the complainant about mis-delivery the Post Master in his letter Ex. A8 informed “that the said article was wrongly delivered to Small Mech. Co., 284, Chawari Bazar, Delhi-6. Action is being taken to recover the contents from the wrong addressee and deliver the cover to the addressee. Further report may kindly be awaited. “
11) In the meantime the officials of the bank under Ex. A9 letter Dt. 19.1.2004 informed that the said DDs were encashed. Now the complainant asserts that in view of wrong delivery some unknown person had encashed the amount and therefore he sustained loss
12) In the first place, the complainant could not prove that he sent these two DDs through registered letter. He could not give any reason as to why he should send it to Delhi address when he had taken the DDs payable by the bank at Ludhiana SSI Branch. Despite the fact that the bank had revealed that the DDs were encashed but the complainant for the reasons best known to him did not implead the bank. It is equally not known as to why the complainant should send the DDs payable to Mr. Ravi Kumar at Ludhiana, to Gagan Vishan Premchand at @@@@hi Market, Sadar Bazar, Delhi.
13) When the claim was made, the Superintendent of Post Offices by his letter Ex. A14 Dt. 26/27.2.2004 informed that under the provisions of Rule 8-CA (III) of Schedule XIII of schedule of financial powers, it would pay a compensation of Rs. 100/-.
14) It is an undisputed fact that the complainant did not insure the cover when he was sending the demand drafts for Rs. 50,000/- It was an ordinary registered letter. The registered letter that was sent by the complainant was wrongly delivered to a third party by the act of which DDs were encashed. The complainant did not ascertain from the bank whether Mr. Ravi Kumar in whose favour the DDs were taken had really encashed or some other third party had encashed. It is not in dispute that the DDs were taken on State Bank of Hyderabad payable at Ludhiana SSI Branch where the amounts were encashed. The complainant could have verified whether in fact the person in whose favour the DDs were taken has encashed or not. The bank was not made a party. Had its fate is known, whether non-delivery or mis-delivery resulting in loss to the complainant could be known. We may state that there was no mention in any of these notices that there was fraud or wilful act or default leading to loss of postal article or non-delivery thereof.
Section 6 of the Indian Post Office Act reads as follows :
6. Exemption from liability for loss, misdelivery, delay or damage The 11[Government] shall not incur any liability by reason of the loss, misdelivery or delay of, or damage to, any postal article in course of transmission by post, except in so far as such liability may in express terms be undertaken by the Central Government as hereinafter provided; and no officer of the Post Office shall incur any liability by reason of any such loss, misdelivery, delay or damage, unless he has caused the same fraudulently or by his willful act or default.
15) The liability of postal department has been considered at length by the National Commission in The Post Master, Imphal Vs. Dr. Jamini Devi Sagolband reported in I (2000) CPJ 28 (NC). After considering various decisions including the decision of Supreme Court in Union of India Vs. Mohd. Nazim reported in AIR 1980 SC 431 opined
“The law is well settled by a long line of decisions of the English Courts, the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts as well as the National Commission itself that Section 6 gives complete immunity to the Government and its employees except in the cases specified therein. We see no reason to depart from this well established principle.”
“Laws, of the land so long as they are in force have to be respected and followed. Article 372 of the Constitution specifically lays down that all the laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution shall continue in force until altered or repealed or amended by a competent Legislature.”
16) In a subsequent decision the National Commission in Head Post Master, Post office Railway Road, Kurukshetra, Haryana & Ors. Vs. Vijay Rattam Aggarwal R.P. 15/1997 and batch after considering the subsequent amendments made to Indian Post Office Act and the rules framed there under opined :
“Scheme of Speed Post has been provided under Indian Post office Rules of 1933 by inserting Rule 66B. As noted above, these Rules are statutory. Complaints regarding any article booked under Speed Post (including demand for refund of fees in cases of non-delivery of articles within the stipulated time) are to be preferred within three months from the date of booking of the articles. Rule 66B was further amended by inserting two more sub rules which provided that in case of delay of Speed Post article beyond the norms determined by the Department of Posts from time to time compensation will be provided which shall be equal to composite Speed Post charges paid. It also provided that in the event of loss of Speed Post article or loss of contents or damage to the contents, compensation shall be double the amount of the composite fee Speed Post charges paid or Rs.1,000/- which ever is less. It would be thus seen that maximum compensation statutorily fixed is Rs.1,000/- which can be granted when there is a loss of Speed Post article or loss of its contents or even damage to the contents. Norms to which reference has been made have been provided in the circular dated 22.1.99. Under Rule 83 letters or parcels containing coin, bullion, currency notes etc. are to be sent by post only in insured covers. Under Rule 83A when a letter or parcel contains government currency notes, bank notes, gold coins etc. sender has to declare on the article the value of the contents and the time of despatch.”
17) Coming to the facts, assuming that the complainant had sent the demand drafts worth Rs. 50,000/- it was by registered post and not through Speed Post nor the cover was insured. We may note that Rule 72 (1) of the Act provides for insurance of postal article where the value exceeds a particular amount. It reads as follows :
“72. (i) Registered letters, value payable registered letters, registered parcels and value payable registered parcels may be insured up to the value of Rs.600/- at such branch post offices, and up to the value of Rs.1,00,000/- at such other post offices, as may be authorised by the Postmaster General to accept articles for insurance and for such post offices as may be authorised by the Postmaster General to deliver insured articles:
Note: Where currency notes are despatched by insured post the value shall not exceed Rs.20,000/-. Provided that in no case shall such value exceed the real value of the contents of the article insured:
Provided also that articles containing Government currency notes or bank notes or gold coin or bullion or gold ornaments or articles of gold any combination of these shall be insured for the actual value of the contents.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1), the insurance of all value payable articles on which the amount specified for recovery exceeds Rs.500/-, other than excepted articles, shall be compulsory for at least the amount specified for recovery from the addressee.
Explanation - In this rule ‘excepted articles’ mean -
(a) Value-payable packets;
(b) Value-payable letters containing railway goods receipts, legal documents, bonds, policies of insurance, promissory notes, bills of lading or ordinary bills for collection, which have no intrinsic value.
18) In fact in a decision in Union of India Vs. State Bank of India reported in II (2007) CPJ 60 (NC) the complainant therein impleaded the postal authorities as well as the bank which had paid the amount to another person. The bank had paid the amount obviously in view of proof that it had refunded the amount to wrong person which amounts to deficiency in service. However, the complaint against the postal department was dismissed by invoking Section 6 of the Indian Post Offices Act. The same is applicable to the facts of this case. In view of the settled law, since the respondent is willing to pay Rs. 100/- towards compensation the same could be paid to the complainant. However, it is not liable to pay compensation nor the complainant is entitled to the same.
19) In the result the complaint is dismissed. Consequently the appeal preferred by the opposite party post office in F.A. No. 237/2007 is allowed and the appeal preferred by the complainant in F.A. 1345/2006 is dismissed. However, in the circumstances of the case, each party to bear its own costs.
Dt. 27. 07. 2009.