1. This application raises a point of some little interest. The plaintiff sued the East Indian Railway Company for damage done to a consignment containing machine-made lace. The consignment was of over the value of Rs. 100, but the value and the contents had not been declared and no extra freight had been paid by way of compensation for increased risks.
2. The Railway Company pleaded that under the provisions of Section 75 of Act No. IX of 1890, it was not liable.
3. The contention on the other side is that the word ' lace ' in the second schedule to Act IX of 1890 means hand-made lace and not machine-made lace. In support of this contention their learned Counsel has referred to 28 and 29 Victoria, Cap. 94, Section 1. This was an Act to amend the Carriers' Act in England, and this section laid down that where the word ' lace ' was used in the Carriers' Act it was to be construed as not including machine-made lace, but the fact that this Amending Act was passed is no authority for an interpretation that the word ' lace ' standingly itself does not include machine-made lace. As I interpret the Amending Act, it simply excludes from the provisions of the Carriers' Act machine-made lace. Had the Act not been passed, machine-made lace would have been included in the provision. The passing of the Amending Act excludes machine-made lace from the operation of the Carriers' Act in England, but in the Indian Railways Act the word ' lace ' must necessarily include both hand-made lace and machine-made lace. If the Act contained the word ' boots, ' it could hardly be contested seriously that the word 'boots' means only hand-made boots and excludes machine-made boots. Applying the ordinary meaning of the word ' lace' both in its colloquial and in its business and technical senses, machine-made lace is as much lace as hand-made lace.
4. The learned Counsel for the applicants has further pressed that his clients should succeed unless it be found that the lace in question is of exceptional value. In support of his argument he relied on the decision in Sarat Chandra Bose v. Secretary of State for India (1912) I.L.R. 39 Calc. 1029, in which a Bench of the Calcutta High Court laid down that the word 'shawls ' in the second schedule of Act IX of 1890 could only refer to Indian shawls of special value and could not be taken to apply to shawls of inferior value. If the principle in that decision be accepted, it would be possible by analogy to infer that the word ' lace ' in the second schedule means only lace of high value. But I regret that I am unable to accept either the reasoning or the conclusion of the learned Judges who formed that Bench. They had to interpret the meaning of the word ' shawls.' They found what the interpretation of the word ' shawl ' was in the English language, but they proceeded to consider what was the probable meaning which the Legislature intended to apply to such a term when the schedule was first drawn up and how far its meaning was to be determined by reference to the other items in the schedule. With due respect to the learned Judges who decided that appeal, I would point out that their first principle of interpretation is not in accord with the principles of interpretation known to the law. It is the duty of a court interpreting the meaning of a word in a Legislative enactment to refrain usually from examining the discussions and the views of the Legislative authority which enacted the statute. It has to look at the meaning of the word only. In the next place I cannot find the slightest authority for supposing that those who enacted the Statute intended the word ' shawls ' to mean only expensive shawls. It is quite clear from the schedule that many articles were included which were necessarily of small intrinsic value for example, watches, clocks and time-pieces of any description. This must include the cheapest watches, clocks and time-pieces, Government stamps will equally include a Government stamp valued at half an anna and a Government stamp valued at Rs. 1,000. In order to avoid liability under the provisions of Section 75 of Act No. IX of 1890 a Railway Company has to establish two conditions. The first is that the articles composing the consignment are articles mentioned in the second schedule. The second is that the total value of the consignment exceeds Rs. 100. There is nothing from which an inference can be drawn that each article in the consignment must be of value. The Railway would be equally protected in the case of a consignment of 150 rupees, worth of half anna stamps as it would be in the case of a consignment of one stamp worth Rs. 150. There is no justification for reading Section 75 as though it meant ' when any articles mentioned in the second schedule are articles of intrinsic value and contained in any parcel or package delivered to a Railway administration for carriage by Railway.' That is how the Calcutta High Court have read the section. I regret that I am unable to adopt the same interpretation. I accept the view of the learned Small Cause Court Judge and dismiss this application with costs.