1. This appeal by the plaintiff is directed against an appellate order of the learned Civil Judge, Mathura dismissing his suit for the recovery of Rs. 1226/13/6 as damages from the Dominion, now the Union of India. It has come up before us, on a reference by a learned single Judge, on account of the importance of the question of law involved in it. The brief facts giving rise to this appeal are as follows :
2. The plaintiff booked a consignment of silver ornaments from Mathura Cantonment Station on the B. B. C. I. Railway to Deoria Station on the O. T. Railway, The consignment was not delivered. The plaintiff thereupon laid a claim to Rs. 1226/13/6 with the administrations of both railways, and on not receiving satisfaction from either of them, brought the present suit, against the Dominion of India after giving notices under Section 77 of the Indian Railways Act to the General Managers of those railways and notice under Section 80, C. P. C. to the Secretary, Railway Board, New Delhi. Several pleas were taken in defence, but the one which prevailed with the Courts below, and on the basis of which they dismissed the suit, was that the notice under Section 80, C. P. C. was not a valid notice.
3. On behalf of the appellant his learned counsel Sri J. S, Gupta contended that, though the notice in question was addressed to the Secretary, Railway Board, New Delhi, yet as it was left at the office of a Secretary to the Central Government, it was a valid notice and the Courts below erred in holding otherwise. After hearing learned counsel for the parties, we are of the opinion that this contention has substance, and this appeal must, consequently, succeed. We shall, therefore, proceed at once to record our reasons for coming to that conclusion.
4. Now in 1946, when this suit was instituted, Section 80 C. P. C, in so far as it is relevant forthe present purposes, read as follows :
'No suit shall be instituted against the Crown until the expiration of two months next after notice in writing has been delivered to or left at the office of (a) in the case of a suit against the Central Government, a Secretary to that Government......'
5. A plain reading of this section shows that the notice, envisaged thereunder, has either to be delivered to a Secretary to the Central Government or left at his office. These two conditions are in the alternative, so that as long as the notice complies with either of these conditions, it cannot be regarded as an invalid notice.
6. The nest thing which has to be seen in the present case, therefore, is, whether the notice in question was delivered to, or left at the office of, a Secretary to the Central Government. The notice is admittedly addressed to the Secretary, Railway Board, New Delhi and was left at his office. It is not disputed -- as indeed it could not be disputed -- that the office of the Railway Board is also the office of the President of that Board : from which it follows that a notice left at the office of the Railway Board is also a notice left at the office of the President of the Railway Board. The only other thing, which remains to be considered therefore, is whether the President of the Railway Board is a Secretary to the Central Government or not, for if he is, then the notice in question cannot be held to suffer from any defect under Section 80, C. P. C. On this point the judgment of the lower appellate Court shows that there are two notifications, viz. Notification No. 9524-1 published in the Gazette of India, dated May 24, 1941, Part I, p. 773, and Notification No. R 49/9/35 public (B) dated 1-6-1937, published in the Gazette of India, dated 19-6-1937, Part I, at p. 1229, which show that the Chief Commissioner, Railways, is an ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India in the Railways Department. The Chief Commissioner being the President of the Railway Board, and a Secretary to the Central Government, and his office being the office of the Railway Board, a notice tinder Section 80, C. P. C. which is left at the office of the Railway Board, must be held to be a notice duly left at the office of a Secretary to the Central Government, as required by the said section. We are fortified in the view expressed by us above, by a Division Bench decision of the Calcutta High Court in Buridehing Tea Co. Ltd. v. Dominion of India, (S) AIR 1955 Cal 360.
7. On behalf of the respondent, it was however-urged, that as the instant notice was not addressed to the Secretary to the Government of India, Railways Department, it cannot be regarded as a valid notice under Section 80, C. P. C., and reliance for this proposition was placed on the Division Bench decision of this Court in Governor General of India v. Bhanwari Devi, AIR 1961 All 14. We have carefully perused this judgment, but find that the precise point which we are called upon to decide, did not fall for consideration in that case. In that case the question, which was canvassed, was whether a notice addressed to the Governor-General in Council through the Secretary to the Government of India, Railways Department (Railway Board), New Delhi, was a valid notice under Section 80, C. P. C. or not, and it was held that it was. That decision, therefore, does not touch upon the question which we are required to decide in this case.
8. The notice under Section 80, C. P. C. having been found to be valid, the plaintiff is entitled to the sum of Rs. 1226/13/6 claimed by him as damages, as his evidence on that point has gone unrebutted,
9. For the reasons stated above, we allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and decree passed by the Courts below, and decree the plaintiffs suit for Rs. 1226/13/6 with costs throughout.