(1) Respondent booked 2 parcels of mangoes on 31.5.67 from Kazipet to Delhi. These arrived on 7.6.67 and suffered 15% damages. Respondent alleging misconduct and negligence sued for damages and also applied under O 1l R. 14 asking Railway to produce record about transit of the parcels. Railway declined to give information saying that it would give its evidence. Plaintiff gave a list of instances in which transit took 4, 5 days. Trial Court on its basis and on the basis of para 116 of Loading Manual decreed the suit. Railway questioned the decree in High Court-judgment para 5 onwards is :-
(2) The respondent filed a list of instances showing that the normal period of transit from Kazipet to New Delhi was 4 to 5 days. The petitioner filed another list showing the period of 7 to 8 days. The Petitioner Railway did not file the whole list of instances from which a legitimate inference could be drawn and have only given instances of the maximum time taken during that period. They also did not dispute the correctness of the instances given by the respondent plaintiff in the documents, Ex. P-l. I am in agreement with the Court below and inclined to accept the version of the respondent-plaintiff that the normal time taken in transit is 4 or 5 days.
(3) The Court below quoted a rule on the subject. I asked the counsels for the parties to produce the rule. The rule is contained in Northern Railway Parcel Loading Manual, 1961. This has been issued for the guidance of Railway officials. The preliminary paragraph 101 of the Rule states that the dealing with all kind of coaching traffic, have been laid down in the Coaching Tariff No. 17 and must be adhered to while the general principles to be followed by the railway staff, for the booking and clearance of parcels and luggage, however, are detailed paragraph 116 of this Manual. It reads :-
(1) In all the Inward Parcel Delivery Books, a separate column should be drawn up indicating the 'transit time of each consignment.'
This column should be filled in as soon as a consignment has arrived at the station.
(2) In order to maintain an effective check on the transit of parcels, the following targets have been laid down to determine the reasonable transit time between the two stations these targets will also apply in the case of through booking. Broad Gauge-400 kilometers or part thereof per day plus 1 day for every break of gauge point plus one day (from the date of booking to the date of arrival). Metre Gauge-250 kilometers or part thereof per day plus 1 day for every break of gauge point plus 1 day (from the date of booking to the date of arrival).
(3) The staff concerned with the booking, and clearance of parcel traffic should pay particular attention to accelerate movement of this traffic by eliminating avoidable delays at all stages. If after checking the actual transit time with the target laid down above, it is found that there is any appreciable delay in receipt of a consignment, the destination station should initiate enquires and report the heavy delay to the Head Office.'
(4) The distance between Kazipet to New Delhi via Balarshah is 1535 kms. or in any event, less than 1600 kms. So if the paragraph 116 is applied then 4 days time is to be taken in transit besides one day for booking and delivery as has been done by the court below.
(5) I am, however, unable to subscribe that this paragraph 116 has got any statutory force or is a rule of law, which can be applied or followed without any other material. Firstly these are instructions for the guidance of the Railway officials. Secondly, these have been issued only by the Northern Railway and it is doubtful as to whether they will govern the Railway staff of the Central and South Central Railways which had dealt with the parcel in dispute. This, however, does not mean that the aforesaid paragraph is absolutely valueless. The court would be justified in assuming that at least the authorities of the Northern Railway considered the transit period of 400 kilometers or part thereof per day as reasonable and this is certainly based on good practical experience. So if evidence is produced on the record to show what is the reasonable time taken for transit between the two stations during the particular period and that evidence should be in consonance with the above paragraph, the court would, in the absence of any other circumstances to the contrary, be fully justified in accepting the evidence produced on the record without any hesitation. The question as to what is the reasonable time and whether a delay has occurred in any particular case is and always be a question of fact and must be decided on the evidence on record. Delay is, thereforee, established in the instant case. Since reasonable time as alleged by the plaintiff for the transit is 4 or 5 days and the parcels had arrived two days later, this fact coupled with absence of time and disclosure by the railway as to how they dealt with the parcels, the finding of Court below is amply justified.