1999(2) ALL MR (JOURNAL) 3
MAHARASHTRA STATE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION, BOMBAY
A.A. HALBE AND G.R. BEDGE, JJ.
Union Of India Vs. Anwar Ahemad Qureshi
Appeal No. 1120 of 1997
28th October, 1998
Petitioner Counsel: Mr. SUNDARAM
(A) Consumer Protection Act (1986), S.2(1)(c)(iii) - Post Office Act (1898), S.6 - Deficiency of Service - Post - Speed post - Delay in delivery - Parcel Posted on 8-1-1996 delivered on 22-1-1996 - Delivery refused by addressee due to delay - Plea by postal Deptt. that address was not proper - Dishonest as address fairly extensive and clear - Address found altered - Deptt. not entitled to immunity u/s. 6 of Post Act - Liable to pay compensation of Rs. 5000 with 18% interest.
(B) Post Office Act (1898), S.6 - Immunity to postal authorities - Loss caused by fraudulent or wilful act or default on part of authorities - No immunity available.
MR. JUSTICE A.A. HALBE, PRESIDENT:- This is an unfortunate event wherein we find that the Postal Authorities have not come with clean hands before us and we are, therefore, not inclined to disturb the order of the District Forum in Complaint No. 156/1996 passed by the District Forum, Akola directing the Postal Authorities to pay Rs. 5,000/- by way of compensation which has to carry 18% interest plus cost of Rs. 250/- for the in\ordinate delay in the Postal article delivery of the Speed Post Parcel handed over to them by the respondent on 8-1-1996 at Akola, for delivering the same to the addressee "The Secretary, U.P. Urdu Academy, Balehra House, Quaisar Bagh, 21, R.K. Tandan Road, Lucknow - 226001." The article was presented for the delivery of the addressee on 22-1-1996 and hence the Academy refused to accept on the ground that the same was received after the stipulated date of 15-1-1996 meant for submission of Urdu Literature for being selected for the award of the prize. The complainant is a literary figure in the Urdu Literature and is working as a Lecturer in the College at Akola. The complainant claims to be a Urdu Poet who has published the publication titled as "Janjir" in December, 1995. The said book was acclaimed and liked by Noted. Litterateurs of the country. The complainant annexed the copies of the reports published in various new spapers and the Appreciation Letters addressed to it.
2. The U.P. Urdu Academy, Lucknow through its Press Advertisement solicited Urdu Literature books from all over India, published between 1-1-1995 to 31-1-1995 for selection of award of cash prize. The last date of receipt of the books was nominated on 15-1-1996 till 5.00 p.m. The books were to be sent in 8 copies and, accordingly, the complainant who wanted to be nominated for such prize, sent 8 copies by post parcel under the Speed Post on 8-1-1996 from Akola Post Office. He was given postal receipt No. 394 and he was charged Rs. 155/- on the basis of the weight. However, to his most frustration and astonishment, he received back the parcel on 27-1-1996 appearing the mark of the Academy " Refused" as having been received after 15-1-1996. The refusal date is 21-1-1996. The complainant contended that because of the laxity and inefficiency on the part of the Postal Authorities and inspite of parcel being booked under Speed Post on payment of Rs. 155/-, his book could not be considered for award of Prize. The Award of Prize could have enhanced his reputation as a Urdu Poet throughout the country. But for the inefficiency on the part of the Postal Authorities, the book could not be considered.
3. As against the order of the District Forum, the Postal Authorities have come before us in appeal and the learned Counsel for the Postal Authorities has drawn our attention to the xerox-copy of the outer cover of the Speed Post Parcel which bears the endorsement "Last Date - 15-1-1996; Refused Date - 22-1-1996. The Urdu Academy to which the book was addressed made this endorsement. The learned Counsel has contended that the complainant put wrong address as "Qadar Baug" and not as "Quaisar Bagh" and that is why there was delay. Apart from that, reliance is heavily placed on Section 6 of the Indian Post Office Act. The national Commission in the case of Sr. Supdt. of Post Office Vs. Consumer Rights Protection Council in Revision Petition Nos. 175 of 1992 and 247 of 1992 held that although the Speed Post is a recent concept, the same is still covered by Section 6 of the Indian Post Act and that Section 6 of the Indian Post Act clearly protects the Postal Authorities in case the parcel is lost during transit. The learned Counsel contended that on both these counts, the order of the District Forum deserves to be set aside.
4. When we have gone through Section 6 of the Indian Post Act, we find that the protection is extended to the Postal Authorities. But the same provision also provides that if the loss is caused fraudulently or by wilful act or default on the part of the Officer of the Post, the claim shall not be defendable. We have indicated above that, according to the learned Counsel for the Postal Authorities, the address was not proper and that instead of Quaisar Baug the address that was found was Qadar Baug. The complainant tendered before us the facsimile of the outer cover of the said parcel and we find that the word is "Quaisar Bagh". We have taken this on record at Ex. "A" whereas Ex. "B" is a xerox copy tendered by the appellant Post Authorities. On close scrutiny, we find that the word "Quaisar Bagh" is changed to "Qadar Bagh". This is clearly an over writing and manipulation on the part of the Postal Authorities to explain the delay. We are not at all satisfied with this contention on the part of the Post authorities. We hold that the original address was Quaisar Bagh and not Qadar Bagh. Apart from that the address is fairly extensive. It reads as "The Secretary, U.P. Urdu Academy, Balehra House, Quaisar Bagh, 21 - R.K. Tandan Road, Lucknow - 226001." With such address, it is unlikely that the Postman could not find this Academy even if for moment, we hold that the address was "Qadar Bagh", 21-Tandan Road is fairly clear enough to locate the address of the Urdu Academy. We find that the contention raised by the Post Authorities is a dishonest and smacks of suspicion. Alterations in the letters of address, disables the appellant to defend the case of delay. We are, therefore, unable to extend the legal immunity of Section 6 of the Indian Post Act. We, therefore, find that in these circumstance, the award of compensation by the District Forum is quite proper.
5. We are also clueless as to how the Post Authorities obtained the xerox copy of the outer cover of Speed Post when factually the parcel was returned to the complainant. The Post Authorities and their learned Counsel have also not explained as to how the xerox copy of the outer cover of the returned Postal article is obtained. All said and done, we feel that the entire approach is devoid of fairness, transparency and honesty. We regret that the Post Authorities should not have taken such a stand. It is statutory authority established under the Act. Ultimately, it is meant for serving the public in the matter of Postal articles throughout India. The Speed Post is a concept which emphasises the Post Authorities to quickly deliver the Postal article. The Postal Authority has recovered Rs. 155/- for postage.
6. The District Forum has also observed that the Post Authorities have taken a improper stand that the Post article is sent from Akola to Nagpur and from there to Lucknow meaning thereby that Lucknow does not come within the net work of Speed Post Service the another ground for defending the delay. But the District Forum has observed that the complainant tendered pamphlet published by the Indian Post regarding the Speed Post Service sponsored by Post master General, Allahabad Division and it is clearly stated that Lucknow is within the network of Speed Post Service. This also negatives the improper stand taken by the Post Authorities. The offer of Rs. 310/- on the basis of total postal charges by the Post Authorities is not acceptable to the complainant and we cannot find fault with that stand taken by the complainant.
7. For the above reason, we feel that the order passed by the District Forum is legal and calls for no interference. Since the respondent/complainant has been required to attend the State Commission at Nagpur from Akola, we award Rs. 500/- (Rs. five hundred) by way of cost of this appeal. Accordingly, we pass the following order :
"The appeal of the Post Authorities is dismissed. The order of the District Forum is confirmed. The appellant to pay further cost of Rs. 500/- to the complainant of this appeal."