Skip to content


The Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. Vs. the Union of India (Uoi) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.F.A.D. No. 983 of 1964
Judge
Reported inAIR1978Cal46,82CWN301
ActsRailways Act, 1890 - Section 77; ;Railways (Amendment) Act, 1961; ;Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Section 100; ;Limitation Act, 1908 - Schedule - Articles 30 and 31
AppellantThe Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd.
RespondentThe Union of India (Uoi)
Advocates:P.N. Mitter, ;A.N. Basu and ;Sitaram Bhattacharyya (2), Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases Referred and Union of India v. Sitaramiah
Excerpt:
- .....held that the period of limitation should be computed from november 16, 1954 when the bulk of the goods were delivered to the plaintiff. the suit having been instituted on july 2, 1958, that is, long after one year from the date of delivery, it was barred. in our view, the learned additional district judge was right in holding that the suit was barred by limitation. 8. mr. p. n. mitter, learned advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant has sought to make out a new case on the point of limitation. it is contended by him that article 31 is not applicable to the facts and circumstances of the case and the article that applies is article 30 which provides a period of limitation of one year for a suit for compensation for losing or injuring goods, from the date when the loss or injury.....
Judgment:

M.M. Dutt, J.

1. This appeal is at the instance of the plaintiff and it arises out of a suit for recovery of compensation.

2. On November 2, 1954, 39 pieces of Tin Ingots were booked by the Metal Distributors Ltd. with the Eastern Railway Administration at Howrah Station for delivery to the plaintiff at the Kulti Siding. Of the said 39 Tin Ingots, the defendant Eastern Railway Administration delivered to the plaintiff only 24 pieces of Tin Ingots on November 16, 1954. The remaining 15 pieces were not delivered and a short certificate was granted to the plaintiff by the Eastern Railway. A correspondence ensued between the parties for delivery to the plaintiff of the remaining pieces of Ingots. The Railway informed the plaintiff that the matter was being enquired into. Ultimately, the Chief Commercial Superintendent of the Eastern Railway by his letter dated September 28, 1957 denied their liability for the said 15 pieces of Tin Ingots. Thereafter, the plaintiff, after service of a notice under Section 77 of the Railways Act and another notice under Section 80 of the Civil P. C., instituted the present suit claiming a sum of Rupees 6,580/- and odd on account of compensation for the said 15 pieces of Tin Ingots.

3. The defendant Railway contested the suit by a written statement. The case of the defendant was that the consignment was duly loaded at the Howrah Station and was properly sealed and secured. During transit between Howrahand Chandpore the consignment was victimised by criminals and a part of the same was pilfered. The loss complained of occurred due to a running theft by miscreants and outside agency under circumstances beyond the control of the Railway Administration and its servants. The defendant denied negligence or misconduct of itself and its employees for the loss of the goods. Further, the defendant challenged the legality and validity of the statutory notices served by the plaintiff. It was contended that the suit was barred by limitation. The defendant denied: that it was liable for the loss of the goods occurred to the plaintiff.

4. The learned Subordinate Judge who tried the suit found that there was short delivery to the plaintiff of 15 pieces of Tin Ingots. He disbelieved the defendant's case of a running train theft and held that the loss was due to the negligence or misconduct on the part of the Railway Administration or its servants. He found that the notice under Section 77 of the Railways Act and that under Section 80 of the Civil P. C. were legal and valid. He overruled the contention of the defendant that the suit was barred by limitation.

5. On appeal by the Union of India, the learned Additional District Judge agreed with the finding of the learned Subordinate Judge that loss of the goods was due to the negligence or misconduct on the part of the Railway Administration or its employees. He, however, found that the notice under Section 77 of the Railways Act not having been served on the General Manager of the Eastern Railway was invalid and insufficient. Further, he held that the suit was barred by limitation. In view of these findings, he dismissed the suit. Hence, this appeal.

6. Two points are involved in this appeal, namely, the validity of the notice under Section 77 and the limitation of the suit. So far as the first point is concerned, we do not think that it will detain us long. The notice under Section 77 was served by the plaintiff on the Chief Commercial Superintendent of the Eastern Railway. In view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Niranjanlall Agarwalla v. Union of India. : [1968]3SCR415 , in the instant case the Chief Commercial Superintendent, who is specially engaged in the enquiry into claims and himself being of a status as can pro-perly look into the truth or falsity of the claim is the proper authority to receive notices of claims under Section 77. Service of the notice under Section 77 on the Chief Commercial Superintendent is, therefore, quite and valid sufficient.

7. As to the second point, the plaintiff made out a case of non-delivery. Article 31 of the Indian Limitation Act, 1908 provides a period of one year from the date when the goods ought to be delivered for a suit for compensation for non-delivery of, or delay in delivering, goods. The plaintiff computed the period of limitation from September 28, 1957 which is date of the said letter of the Chief Commercial Superintendent ultimately refusing to deliver the goods and denying the liability of the Railway Administration. It has been held by the Supreme Court in Boota Mal v. Union of India, : [1963]1SCR70 that the words in the third column of Article 31 'when the goods ought to be delivered' can only mean the reasonable time taken (in the absence of any term in the contract from which the time can be inferred expressly or impliedly) in the carriage of the goods from the place of despatch to the place of destination. The fact that what is reasonable time must depend upon the circumstances of each case and the further fact that the carrier may have to show eventually what is the reasonable time for carriage of goods would make no difference to the interpretation of the words used in the third column of Article 31. If the correspondence discloses anything which may amount to an acknowledgment of the liability of the carrier, that will give a fresh starting point of limitation. If, lowever, the correspondence is only about tracing the goods that would be material in considering the question as to when the goods ought to have been delivered. Where, however, the correspondence provides material from which reasonable time in a particular case may be found out, the correspondence would be relevant to that extent. Further, there may be no difficulty in finding out the reasonable time where bulk of the goods have been delivered and only a part has not been delivered, for in such a case in the absence of special circumstances it should be easy to see that the reasonable time is that within which the bulk of the goods have been delivered. In the instant case, the correspondence between the parties neither discloses any material fact which may throw any lighton the question of determining the reasonable time, nor is there any acknowledgment of liability by the Railway. In these circumstances, on the authority of the above decision of the Supreme Court, it must be held that the period of limitation should be computed from November 16, 1954 when the bulk of the goods were delivered to the plaintiff. The suit having been instituted on July 2, 1958, that is, long after one year from the date of delivery, it was barred. In our view, the learned Additional District Judge was right in holding that the suit was barred by limitation.

8. Mr. P. N. Mitter, learned Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant has sought to make out a new case on the point of limitation. It is contended by him that Article 31 is not applicable to the facts and circumstances of the case and the Article that applies is Article 30 which provides a period of limitation of one year for a suit for compensation for losing or injuring goods, from the date when the loss or injury occurs. This contention was not made by the plaintiff in either of the courts below nor any ground has been taken in that regard in the memo of appeal to this Court. Be that as it may, as the point is one of law we may consider the same.

9. It is not disputed that the loss or injury under Article 30 contemplates loss or injury to the carrier and not the ultimate loss to the consignee. There is some amount of overlapping between Article 30 and Article 31. Every case of loss or injury will result in non-delivery, but every case of non-delivery may not be due to loss. Where non-delivery of the goods is occasioned by the losing or injuring goods by the carrier, Article 30 will apply and the period of limitation would be computed from the date when the loss or injury occurs; but if the non-delivery is not due to loss or injury Article 31 will apply and the period of limitation would be computed from the date when the goods ought to be delivered. It is the contention of the plaintiff appellant that as the Railway by its letter dated September 28, 1957 admitted that the goods were lost during transit between Howrah and Chandpur, it was a case of losing or injuring goods by the Railway and accordingly, Article 30 would apply. If, however, the period is computed from the date when the loss occurred, the suit would still be barred by limitation as admittedly it was filed beyond one year from the date when the loss had occur-red. But it is contended on behalf of the plaintiff appellant that as the Railway had not communicated to the plaintiff the date when the loss had occurred till by the letter of the Chief Commercial Superintendent dated September 28. 1957 the starting point of limitation under Article 30 should be computed from the date of such communication, that is, from September 28, 1957. In support of his contention, strong reliance has been placed by Mr. Mitter on two decisions of the Madras High Court in Union of India v. Seyadu Beedi Co., : AIR1970Mad108 and Union of India v. Sitaramiah, : AIR1962Mad349 . In these two decisions, it has been held that the starting point of limitation should be computed from the date when the plaintiff was communicated by the Railway with the date when the loss had occurred. Most respectfully, we are unable to agree with the proposition of law laid down by the Madras High Court in the above two decisions. In Article 30 the starting point of limitation is 'when the loss or injury occurs'. If it is held that the starting point of limitation should be computed from the date of communication to the plaintiff by the Railway as to when the loss had occurred and not from the date when the loss had occurred, we are afraid, it would be amending the Article. If the legislature had intended that the starting point of limitation should be the date when the plaintiff becomes aware of the date of the loss or injury it would have provided the same. This is one of the reasons for which the Supreme Court in Boota Mal's case referred to above, rejected the contention that under Article 31 time begins to run from the date when the Railway finally refuses to deliver the goods. The Supreme Court compared the language used in the third column of Article 31 with that used in certain other Articles of the Indian Limitation Act and observed that where the legislature intended that time should run from the date of refusal, it had used appropriate words in that connection. The same reason also applies to Article 30 and accordingly, it is difficult to hold that time will begin to run from the date when the plaintiff becomes aware of the date when the loss or injury had occurred. It is contended by Mr. Mitter that if the Article be not construed in the way suggested by him it would lead to great hardship. It is now well settled that when the language of the statute is clear the question of hardship cannot bebrought in for an interpretation which does not follow from the plain meaning. In the instant case, the bulk of the goods were delivered to the plaintiff on November 16, 1954. On that date, the plaintiff was not aware as to whether the goods were lost to the Railway during transit. It was, therefore, a case of non-delivery of goods and the plaintiff should have instituted the suit within one year from that date. Instead, the plaintiff waited for more than three years and carried on needless correspondence. In these circumstances, we do not think that there is any merit in the contention made on behalf of the plaintiff on the question of limitation. Moreover, as stated above. Article 30 was neither pleaded nor argued in the courts below.

10. For the reasons aforesaid, we are in agreement with the finding of the learned Additional District Judge that the suit is barred by limitation. The judgment and decree of the learned Additional District Judge are hereby affirmed and this appeal is dismissed. There will, however, be no order for costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //