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Chunilal Vs. the Governor-general in Council as Representing G.i.P. Railway - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1949)1MLJ538
AppellantChunilal
RespondentThe Governor-general in Council as Representing G.i.P. Railway
Cases ReferredIshwardas Gulabchand v. The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Co. I.L.R.
Excerpt:
.....liable in any event to pay for the actual value of the contents of the box which may well be considerably less than the amount declared. an interesting point for determination is whether if plaintiff, though under no legal obligation to value the contents of the box, does so of his own accord, the railway company is legally liable to pay him compensation in excess of his own valuation at the time of consignment......not being disputed that it actually received the box in transit from the m. & s. m. railway. the learned judge found that the box in question actually contained the following articles as claimed by the plaintiff (1) two gross red-blue pencils worth rs. 72, (2) 5 gross black lead pencils worth rs. 70, (3) 20 gross swadeshi brass nibs worth rs. 480, (4) 700 dozen sewing machine english needles worth rs. 1,400, (5) 3 dozen playing cards worth rs. 9-12-0. plaintiff examined p.w. 2, the proprietor of the shop who supplied these goods to the plaintiff and also packed them and found on his evidence and also his account book and a cash bill that all these articles were in. fact in this box consigned by goods train. the forwarding slip handed in by the plaintiff (ex. b-1) described the contents.....
Judgment:

Mack, J.

1. Appellant is the plaintiff; One Chunilal, who consigned by goods train a dealwood-box containing goods to Bombay on 12th May, 1945. The box was lost in transit. He sued the M. & S. M. and the G.I.P. Railways represented by the Governor-General in Council to recover the value of its contents, namely, Rs. 2,031-12-0. The Principal City Civil Judge gave him a decree only for Rs. 142 with proportionate costs against the G.I.P. Railway only, it not being disputed that it actually received the box in transit from the M. & S. M. Railway. The learned Judge found that the box in question actually contained the following articles as claimed by the plaintiff (1) two gross red-blue pencils worth Rs. 72, (2) 5 gross black lead pencils worth Rs. 70, (3) 20 gross swadeshi brass nibs worth Rs. 480, (4) 700 dozen sewing machine English needles worth Rs. 1,400, (5) 3 dozen playing cards worth Rs. 9-12-0. Plaintiff examined P.W. 2, the proprietor of the shop who supplied these goods to the plaintiff and also packed them and found on his evidence and also his account book and a cash bill that all these articles were in. fact in this box consigned by goods train. The forwarding slip handed in by the plaintiff (Ex. B-1) described the contents of the box as follows : ' One G. Parcel. stationery pencil, value Rs. 900.' Holding plaintiff strictly to the description of ' pencils ' the learned Judge gave him a decree for Rs. 142 being the value only, of the red and blue and black lead pencils.

2. I am far from clear as to the legal reasoning on which the learned Judge acted in holding that plaintiff could only recover the value of ' pencils ' and not even other articles of stationery to which category brass nibs and also needles which can be used for sewing account books and other office purposes can fall. The learned Judge was guided by an old Bombay decision in Ishwardas Gulabchand v. The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Co. I.L.R. (1878) 3 Bom. 120 and Section 78 of the Railways Act. The Bombay decision is an interesting one. On the facts in that case, a plaintiff consigned 12 bags of sugar candy describing them in the consignment note as 12 bags of alum. A Bench of the Bombay High Court held that the plaintiff could only recover the value of alum bags instead of sugar candy bags. The learned trial Judge failed to observe the very important differentiation between the facts there and the present case, namely, that a higher rate of freight was chargeable for sugar candy and that by describing the bags as containing alum plaintiff got sugar candy transported at a lower rate of freight. It is not suggested in the present case that any of the articles found to be in this box came within the scope of Schedule II as articles requiring special declaration or valuation under Section 75 of the Railways Act. It is not disputed that all; the articles in the box would be liable to precisely the same rate of freight. The learned Judge then went on to observe that it was clear from Section 78 of the Railways Act and also this Bombay decision that in view of the description given in the forwarding slip, the plaintiff would be entitled to get only the value of the pencils. Section 78 protects the railway administration from responsibility for loss, destruction or deterioration of any goods,

with respect to the description of which an account materially false has been delivered under Sub-section (1) of Section 58 if the loss, destruction or deterioration is in any way brought about by the false account.

Two conditions are necessary before the railway company can be protected from loss. In the first place the description must be found to be materially false and to have been delivered under Sub-section (1) of Section 58. Section 58(1) imposes an obligation on a consignor of goods to deliver an account containing a description of goods sufficient to determine the rate of freight at the request of the railway servant. It may be presumed for purposes of this case that the forwarding slip (Ex. B-1) was handed in at the request of the railway staff. There is however nothing to show either that the description is materially false or that the second condition required by Section 78 is satisfied, namely, that the loss, destruction or deterioration has been in any way brought about by the false accounts. The learned Judge appears to have taken a narrow and unwarranted view of Section 78 of the Railways Act and also to have misapplied the Bombay decision. The contents of the box cannot be said to have been described with material falsity as 'stationery pencils.' There is no statutory obligation on a consignor of a box containing miscellaneous articles of this description to hand in a precise invoice describing separately every article in it. All that Section 58 contemplates is a description of such a general nature as may be sufficient to determine the correct freight chargeable, there being no suggestion even that any article in the box would have rendered it liable to a higher rate of freight. The description in the forwarding note cannot therefore be regarded by any stretch of language or imagination: to be materially false.

3. The next point stressed on behalf of the railway and not specifically determined by the trial Judge is whether plaintiff should not be bound by his own valuation of Rs. 900 admittedly put by him on this box in his forwarding slip Ex. B-1 which he admittedly gave to the railway clerk. There is on the reverse of the railway receipt (Ex. A-1), which reproduces the description of the goods as 'stationery pencils ' but does not mention the value of Rs. 900, a clause that where goods insured have been lost or destroyed, compensation payable shall not exceed the value declared. There appears to have been no legal obligation on the plaintiff to declare in Ex. B-1 the value of the goods in the box. Nor will such valuation in any way bind the railway company who are only liable in any event to pay for the actual value of the contents of the box which may well be considerably less than the amount declared. An interesting point for determination is whether if plaintiff, though under no legal obligation to value the contents of the box, does so of his own accord, the railway company is legally liable to pay him compensation in excess of his own valuation at the time of consignment. The only explanation plaintiff has given for his valuation of the contents at Rs. 900 in Ex. B-1 is that it was a mistake. It is a little difficult to follow how there could have been a mistake in under-valuation to less than half the real value now claimed. A possible explanation may be that P.W. 2 when packing the box found some extra room and put in the Swadeshi brass nibs and the playing cards which he had not sold to the plaintiff, but which he admittedly wanted the plaintiff to sell in Bombay on his account. However, this may be, I am of the opinion that where a consignor takes it upon himself specifically to value a box and its contents consigned by rail, it is not open to him to claim from the railway company anything in excess of that valuation and to contend that the box contained more valuable things, an averment, which the railway company may have great difficulty in refuting. It is true that in this case, the learned Judge has accepted the evidence of plaintiff and P.W. 2 and his account books and found that the box did actually contain all the articles alleged in the plaint. I hold, however, that this finding notwithstanding plaintiff cannot recover from the railway more in compensation than the value of the box and its contents he declared at the time of consignment, namely, Rs. 900.

4. The decree passed by the lower Court will be modified accordingly. The plaintiff will have a decree for Rs. 900 with costs to the extent to which he has succeeded against the G.I.P. Railway (the second defendant) only in the trial Court and in this Court. The railway will bear its own costs in the lower Court and in this Court.


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