(1) This revision proceeding is sought to be instituted by a firm of launderers and dry cleaners, M/s. Lily White, who were defendants in a small cause action. The facts relating to the proceeding are certainly exceptional, and of a considerable degree of interest upon the question of trade ethics, and the claim of the revision petitioner, quite tersely stated, to enforce an obligation which is opposed to public policy and the common law. On 13-5-1963, the plaintiff in the case gave a new saree (6 yards in length) and a blouse, to the firm of the revision petitioners for dry cleaning. The revision petitioners undertook to dry-clean the articles and to redeliver on 18-5-1963. Admittedly, the saree was never redelivered, and it must be held that the garment has disappeared, though only negligence is alleged against revision petitioners in this respect and, not mala fides. The plaintiff, in essence, claimed the market value of the entrusted article.
(2) The defence to this action was a very curious one. On the reverse of the bill, which is generally handed over by the firm to customers when receiving articles for dry-cleaning, certain conditions are printed. Under condition No. 2, the customer was entitled to claim only 50 per cent of the market price or value of the articles, in case of loss. The present action relates to the saree alone, the blouse having been subsequently traced and recovered. The short point is whether the revision petitioners can insist that they are bound to pay only 50 per cent of the market value of the saree lost, it being a matter of concession that the loss occurred during entrustment, and due to the negligence of the firm.
(3) On this aspect, all that learned counsel for revision petitioners is able to put forward as an argument is that there is a document, Ex. D. 2, a letter written by the plaintiff to the firm, in which he expressed his willingness to settle the dispute between the parties, taking the market value of the saree at Rs. 220. It is urged that the proposed settlement is, by implication, in terms of the printed conditions on the reverse of the bill, so that the plaintiff cannot claim more than Rs. 110. The learned Judge decreed the suit for the entire market value of Rs. 220, and the new Trial Bench confirmed this decree. The only point before me is whether clause 2 of the terms is valid in law, and can be enforced as between the parties.
(4) On this aspect, the learned Judge observed that the condition relating to restriction of the claim to 50 per cent to the market price, 'is not enforceable on public grounds. If this condition is enforced, then, any laundry owner will try to misappropriate new clothes'. The New Trial Bench was in entire agreement with this line of reasoning.
(5) It appears to me to be very clear that a term which is prima facie opposed both to public policy and to the fundamental principles of the law of contract, cannot be enforced by a court, merely, because it is printed on the reverse of a bill and there is a tacit acceptance of the term when the bill was received by the customer. Certainly, the conditions printed on the reverse of a bill may well govern or modify any simple contract, such as the contract in the present case, which was to entrust an article for dry cleaning, and to pay due charges for that service, subject to the obligation on the part of the businessman to perform the process properly, and to return the articles safe and intact. But, if a condition is imposed, which is in flagrant infringement of the law relating to negligence, and a bill containing this printed condition is served on the customer, the court will not enforce such a term, which is not in the interests of the public, and which is not in accordance with public policy. Actually, it is a matter of some surprise to me that the revision petitioner-firm has thought it fit to press this matter in revision, and there is certainly justification for the observation, both of the trial Judge and the New Trial Bench, that this may well be putting a premium upon the abstraction of clothes, which may be committed by the employee of a firm, intent on private gain, though the firm itself may be blameless with regard to the actual loss. The revision has no merits whatever, and it is dismissed.
(6) Revision dismissed.