P. Chandra Reddy, C.J.
1. This Civil Revision pension raises a question relating to the interpretation of Sections 77 and 80 of the Indian Railways Act. 1890. It arises out of a suit instituted (or recovery of a sum of Rs. 1,415/-by way of damages for the loss caused by the delas in transit of goods from Farukabad to Rajahmundry,
2. The facts of the case may be briefly stated. The petitioner is a merchant at Rajahmuiidry dealing in vegetables. He purchased some potatoes at Farukabad. They were consigned at Farukabad to Rajahmuiidry under railway receipt dated 25-1-1554. The wagon reached Rajahmundry after a considerable delay and the goods delivered to the petitioner on 19-2-1954. When the wagon was opened, it was found that the potatoes were considerably damaged. The railway officers estimated the damage caused to the petitioner at 37 per cent of the cost. A week later, the petitioner laid a claim for Rs. 1,415/- as damages from the Southern Railway.
As this demand was not complied with, he issued a notice both under S. SO C. P. C. and Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act to the three railway administrations, namely, fhe Southern Railway, the Central Railway and the Northern Railway, the last being the administration with which the consignor entered into a contract for the carriage of goods, the first being the railway that delivered the goods and the other being the railway system on whose lines also the goods were carried. All the railways repudiated their liability, with the result that the petitioner brought the suit which has given rise to this revision,
3. The Southern Railway defended the suit on the ground that as the delay did not occur while the goods were in their custody, they were not liable to pay any damages. The other two railways resisted it on the objection that the terms of Section 77. of the Indian Railways Act were not complied with.
4. The lower Court, on a consideration of all the material that was placed before it, came to the conclusion that the Southern Railway was not in anyway responsible for the delay in the delivery of the goods, that the damage was due to the delay in the transit of goods while they were in the possession of the Central and the Northern Railways and that therefore, the two latter railways alone would be liable to pay damages. However, the learned Subordinate Judge dismissed the suit in the view that the suit as against those two railways was not sus-tamable, since the notice contemplated by Section 77. of the Indian Railways Act was not served on them.
5. In this revision against that decree, it is urged by the learned Counsel for the petitioner that the notice issued to the Southern Railway was a sufficient compliance of the provisions of S. 77 and that each and every railway administration that is sought to he made liable need not be served, with notice, having regard to the fact that at present all the railway systems in the country vest in the Union of India. This proposition is contested by the learned counsel for the respondents who urges that any railway administration, which is sought tobe made liable should be served with notice of demand as required by Section 77 of the Indian Railway's Act.
6. Since the question that has to be answered turns on the construction of Sections 77 and 80 of that Act, it is useful to extract them here.
Section 77: 'A person shall not be entitled to refund of an overcharge in respect of animals or goods carried by railway or to compensation for the loss, destruction or deterioration of animals or goods delivered to be so carried, unless his claim to the refund or compensation has been preferred in writing by him or on his behalf to the railway administration within six months from the date of the delivery of the animals or goods for carriage by railway.'
Section 80: 'Notwithstanding anything in any agreement purporting to limit the liability of a railway administration with respect to traffic while on the 'railway of another administration, a suit for compensation for loss of the life of, or personal injury to, a passenger, or for loss, destruction or deterioration of animals or goods were booked through over the railways of two or more railway administrations, may be brought either against the railway administration from which the passenger obtained his pass or purchased his ticket, or to which the animals or goods were delivered by the consignor thereof, as the case may be, or against the railway administration on whose railway the loss, injury, destruction or deterioration occurred.'
7. Thus Section 77 lays down the condition that the claim for refund or compensation should be preferred in writing to the railway administration within six months from the date of delivery. This is made a condition precedent to the institution of any suit for any of the reliefs mentioned in the section. It is also clear from Section 80 that only two of the rail-way administrations are liable for damages or compensation, i. e., the railway administration with which the consignor entered into a contract for carriage of goods or the railway over whose lines the loss occurred. It is, therefore, clear that the section treats each of the railway administrations as a separate entity with separate existence and personality.
8. It is contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that for purposes of Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act, all the railway systems should be regarded as a single unit since they all belong to the Union of India, and that if notice was served on any one of them, service of notice on the other administrations could be dispensed with.
9. We find it difficult to accede to this contention, having regard to the provisions of Section 80. That section creates a liability on the part of railways in regard to the loss caused to a party. It contains the law relating to, the liability of different railways mentioned therein. The section gives an option to the aggrieved party to sue either the railway system with which he has entered into a contract of carriage or the railway administration over whose lines damage was caused to the goods. If the theory of the petitioner is to be accepted, it is an minderstandable as to why alternative liability is provided for. If, as is argued, the liability is that of the Union Government in whom all the railways vest, there could be no question of fixing the liability either on one or the other of the railways.
10. It is true that Section 80 was enacted at a time when the different railway systems belonged to different owners and, therefore, such a provision was necessary. Bu then if any alteration was contemplated, Parbament would have amended the section suitably. The section, as it stands, points to the conclusion that the individuality of each of the railway administration is continued. Thus Section 80 furnishes a clue to the interpretation of Section 77.
11. Further, in construing Section 77, we have to bear in mind the object with which that provision was made. The purpose underlying that section is that the authorities concerned should be apprised of the loss or damage promptly in order to enable them to investigate into the matter quickly and get some information as regards the loss or damage. If the submission of the petitioner is to prevail the very object of this section would be defeated. Unless the railway system, which is sought to be mulcted with damages has notice of it, it would not be in a position to enquire into the matter and the notice issued to another railway administration would be of no help whatsoever in regard to the matter indicated in that section. There is, therefore, no scope for creating a fiction that service of notice on one of the railway administrations is service on all the railway administrations.
12. This conclusion of ours is also reinforced by the terms of Section 80 C. P. C, as also Section 140 of the Indian Railways Act. Section 80 C. P. C., as it stands today, requires notice to be served on the General Manager of the railway in the case of a suit against the Central Government, where it relates to a railway. This makes it plain that the notice should be served on the Manager of the particular railway which is sought to be made liable. The same result is sought to be achieved by Section 140 of the Indian Railways Act which recites:
'Any notice or other document required or authorised by this Act to be served on a railway administration may be served, in the case of a railway administered by the Government, on the Manager, and, in the case of a railway administered by a railway company, on the Agent in India of the railway company-
(a) by delivering the notice or other document to the Manager or Agent; or
(b) by leaving it at his office; or
(c) by forwarding it by post in a prepaid letter addressed to the Manager or Agent at his office and registered under Part III of the Indian Post-office Act, 1866.'
13. These provisions of law are in consonance with the view that each railway administration is treated as having a separate existence, and, therefore it should be informed of any claim which an aggrieved person proposes to make within the time mentioned in Section 77.
14. These provisions of law were subject to judicial scrutiny and we may now turn to the decided cases on the subject.
15. This matter was considered by a Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Darjeeling Himalayan Rly. Co. Ltd v. Jetmull Bhojraj, : AIR1956Cal390 . In that case, the learned Judges thought that the railway administration, which is sued should be intimated of the claim for compensation In Union of India v. Durgadutt, : AIR1957Cal202 . Lahiri J., ruled that for the purpose of filing a suit, the different railways of India must be treated as separate legal entities and there was no warrant for the contention that one notice issued to the Union of India as representing all the railways satisfies the terms of Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act.
The view taken by a Bench of the Nagpur High Court in Dominion of India v. Firm Muserarn Kishun Prasad, AIR 1950 Nag 85, seems to accord with the above doctrine. It was, inter alia, laid down in that case that Section 80 of the Indian Railways Act treats each railway system as a separate administration and that, therefore, merely suing the Governor-General as representing the entire State-owned rail-ways was not a proper form of suit, since that would render Section 80 nugatory,
16. This question was also dealt wish by Mack J., in Kishanlal Roopchand and Co. v. Indian Dominion : AIR1955Mad151 . The learned Judge laid down the principle that the effect of Section 77 read with Section 80 of the Indian Railways Act was that no railway administration could be made liable for compensation, unless such a claim was preferred to it within six months from the date of delivery of the goods for carriage by the railway.
17. Although several cases were cited by the learned counsel for the petitioner as establishing, his contention noticed above, the only one that has a real bearing is the decision in Govenor-General in Council v. Ajithbhai Jayanthilal and Co., : AIR1952Mad795 , wherein Basheer Ahmed Sayeed J., observed thus:
'But, in this case, both the railway adminisrations are part and parcel of the same system of railways and notice to the administration who the plaintiff thought, was directly responsible to deliver the goods, should be considered sufficient when that notice had been somehow brought to the notice of the other administration from whom the plaintiff seeks to claim relief.'
We are unable to agree with the rule staged by the learned Judge. The interpretation placed by the learned Judge on Section 77 is not borne out by the language of that section. The other rulings cited by the learned counsel for the petitioner do not throw any light on this aspect of the matter, as they deal with different aspects, such as the option to file the suit either against the one or the other of the railways envisaged in Section 80, and, therefore, it is not necessary for us to consider those rulings in any detail.
18. The above discussion shows that the preponderance of authority is in favour of the view that any railway administration against whom relief is sought must be served with notice under Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act and failure to do so will disentitle the aggrieved party to maintain a suit for any of the reliefs mentioned in that section. We are in entire agreement with the principles laid down in those cases, since they are in accordance with the plain meaning of the language employed in Sections. 77 and 80 of the Railways Act.
19. In the result, we uphold the decision of the lower Court and dismiss this civil revision petition with costs.
20. Civil Revision Petition No. 481 of 1957: The same principle applies to this case also as the suit out of which this revision has arisen also was dismissed on the ground that the terms of Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act were not satisfied. This revision petition also is dismissed with costs.