Iqbal Ahmad, J.
1. This is a defendant's appeal, and arises out of a suit brought by the plaintiff-respondent for a declaration that a rule, recently introduced by the authorities of the East Indian Railway, providing that a consignment of locks of less than one maund in weight can only be booked at Railway risk, if it is packed in a inch thick wooden box, with two wooden battons on each of the four sides and further if the box is also secured with wire bands of which the center one is sealed by the despatcher is illegal, ultra vires and unenforceable, and that the defendant Railway has no right to refuse to book at Railway risk consignments of, looks packed securely in an iron box or otherwise. The plaintiff also prayed for an injunction restraining the Railway Company from enforcing the rule noted above.
2. The plaintiff's case was that he and other Aligarh lock merchants used to despatch consignments of locks of less than a maund in weight packed in iron boxes, and that the mode of packing adopted by them was comparatively more secure than that prescribed by the Railway Authorities, and that the Railway Administration was not competent to prescribe a particular method of packing as a condition precedent to the booking of consignments at Railway risk.
3. The defence to the suit was that the suit was not maintainable, that the method of packing adopted by the lock merchants of Aligarh was insecure, and gave opportunities for various acts of fraud being committed, resulting in claims being made against the Railway Administration and that the rule in question was framed in the exercise of the powers vested in a Railway Administration by the Indian Railways Act and was perfectly valid.
4. The trial Court held, that the iron packing employed by the Aligarh merchants was as good as the wooden packing now required by the new rules, and that in making the new rule, the Railway Administration was actuated more by a consideration of its own interests than those of lock merchants, and that the Railway Authorities have no right to refuse goods which are properly packed, and cannot enforce a rule requiring that the goods must be packed only in a particular manner. On these findings it passed a decree in the plaintiff's favour in terms of the reliefs payed for in the plaint.
5. On appeal by the defendant the decision of the trial Court has been affirmed by the lower appellate Court.
6. I am unable to agree with the decisions of the Courts below. It is, no doubt, true that the Railway Company is a common carrier and is bound to accept consignments for despatch; but if the consignments are despatched at Railway risk it is entitled to take reasonable precautions to protect itself from loss. A Railway Administration is authorized by Section 54(1) of the Indian Railways Act (Act 9 of 1890) to impose, subject to the control of the Governor-General in Council, conditions not inconsistent with the Act or with any general rules thereunder 'with respect to the receiving, forwarding or delivering of any animals or goods.' It is maintained by the learned Counsel for the defendant-appellant that the rule, the validity of which is assailed by the plaintiff-respondent, was made in pursuance of the powers vested in a Railway Administration by Section 54 of the Indian Railways Act, and that the rule is not inconsistent with the Act or with any general rule thereunder and as such is perfectly valid. It is argued by the learned Counsel for the respondent that the rule in question is inconsistent, with Section 72 of the Indian Railways Act, as that rule is calculated to limit the responsibility east on a Railway Company as a common carrier by that section. Section 72 of the Indian Railways Act deals with the measure of the general responsibility of a Railway Administration as a common carrier of animals and goods, and provides that agreements purporting to limit that responsibility are void, unless signed by or on behalf of the person sending or delivering the goods and are in a form approved by the Governor-General in Council. It is nowhere provided by Section 72 of the Indian Railways Act that a Railway Administration is not entitled to impose conditions as regards the form of packing as a condition precedent to the acceptance of goods by it for carriage at its own risk as a common carrier. It is bound to accept consignments for despatch, but it is entitled to impose reasonable conditions for the purpose of protecting itself from loss. If such conditions are not complied with by the consignor, it may refuse to accept the consignment at its own risk. But even then it will be open to the consignor to despatch the same at his own risk. As was pointed out in the case of Jalim Singh Kotary v. Secretary of State  31 Cal, 951, that
a Railway Company has cast upon it by Section 72 of the Indian Railways Act the duties of an ordinary bailee, but it may determine the conditions under which those duties may vest.
7. It appears to me that the proper test for determining as to whether a particular rule made by a Railway Administration is or is not valid, is to see whether that rule framed is a reasonable one and is not inconsistent with the Indian Railways Act. There is nothing in the Act that prohibits a Railway Administration from insisting on a particular mode of packing, if consignments are to be despatched at its own risk. The fact that another mode of packing is as secure as the one enjoined by a rule framed by the Railway Administration appears to me to be irrelevant for the purpose of determining the validity of that rule. The learned Munsif has pointed out in his judgment that if the rule in question is held to be valid,
there Will be nothing to prevent it (Railway Company) from next ruling that the locks will be carried by it at its risk only if they are packed in crocodile suit cases.
8. Such a rule, if framed by the Railway Administration, will, undoubtedly, be invalid as it will be calculated to unduly limit the duty that the law casts upon the Railway Administration as that of a common carrier. That rule now in question does not appear to me to be one that the Railway Administration was not authorized to make by virtue of the powers vested in it by Section 54 of the Indian Railways Act and as such, in my judgment, the Courts below were wrong in decreeing the plaintiff's suit.
9. The result is that I allow the appeal, set aside the decrees of the Courts below and dismiss the plaintiff's suit with costs in all Courts.