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Allahabad High Court flays Postal department for wasting time of court, not paying damages to applicants on loss of articles

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed the petition saying that the plea has been pending before the Court since 2015, seven years of litigation challenging damages worth only Rs 4,500, that too by a Department of Government seems a cruel joke on the judiciary. The Department has definitely lost much more amount throughout this litigation than it was ordered to pay as damages to the respondents.

A Single Bench of Justice Vivek Chaudhary passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Senior Superintendent Department Of Post and 3 Others.

By the writ petition, the petitioner is challenging the award/order dated 30.09.2014, passed by the Permanent Lok Adalat, Moradabad awarding compensation to the extent of Rs 4,500 each to the applicants in Application on account of loss of the articles sent by speed-post by the complainants, which contained their passports and demand drafts.

Archana Srivastava, Counsel for the petitioner contends that as per Section 6 of the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, the Postal Department enjoys immunity with regard to any liability arising out of any loss, mis-delivery, delay or damage of any postal article in the course of its transmission.

She further adds that the Permanent Lok Adalat can not entertain an application for award against the Postal Department in light of the immunity of the Postal Department as provided under Section 6 of the Act, 1898.

The Court held,

The judgments of the Court relied upon by the petitioner do not apply to the facts of the petition. The judgments in the case of Dr Shri Dev Mishra (Supra) and Ram Dhari Yadav (Supra) relate to whether relief could be granted to petitioners who sent their applications through India Post, but due to delay their applications could not reach in time to the recruitment body and therefore their prayer was that the respondents should admit their applications even after a delay. Both these judgments have relied upon the full bench judgment of Neena Chaturvedi (Supra), which is also relied upon by the counsel for the petitioner in the petition.

The Full Bench of the Court in the case of Neena Chaturvedi (Supra) was deciding upon the issue whether the post office acts as an agent of the sender or the receiver.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that it protects the Government and the Officers of the Post Office from any liability by reason of loss, mis-delivery or delays for damage to any postal article except insofar as such liability is undertaken, in expressed terms, by the Central Government.

However, in the petition, the respondents have availed the services of speed-post and not that of a regular post. Speed post as a value added faster service was first introduced in the year 1986, some eighty-eight years after the Act, 1898 was enacted and therefore by any stretch of the imagination, the immunity under Section 6 of the Act, 1898 can not be expected to also cover the same.

The Court observed that,

Next contention of counsel for the petitioner is that Permanent Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction to decide the cases involving the loss or mis-delivery of a postal article in light of the immunity that the Postal Department enjoys by virtue of Section 6 of the Act, 1898. The Court did not find any force in his contention. Permanent Lok Adalat is a special adjudicatory body set up under The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Powers of Permanent Lok Adalat are provided under Section 22 of the Act, 1987.

From the joint reading of both the above provisions regarding the power and subject matters that can be entertained by the Permanent Lok Adalat, it becomes clear that postal services are Public Utility Services as Section 22A of the Act, 1987 and as per Section 22 and Section 22B, Permanent Lok Adalat has the same powers and jurisdiction as civil courts to decide such cases. Therefore, the Court does not find any strength in the contention that the Permanent Lok Adalat cannot decide cases against the Postal Department.

In view of the aforesaid, all the grounds of challenge to the impugned order could not be sustained.

The Court said that the petitioners have approached the Court against an award of Rs 4,500/- in favour of each respondent. The petition has been pending before the Court since 2015, seven years of litigation challenging damages worth only Rs 4,500, that too by a Department of Government seems a cruel joke on the judiciary. The Department has definitely lost much more amount throughout this litigation than it was ordered to pay as damages to the respondents. What speaks volumes is that even the respondents are not contesting this petition. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that even in a suit for recovery of less than Rs 25,000, a second appeal is barred under Section 102 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

“The Supreme Court has time and again warned against unnecessary and frivolous litigations taking up valuable time of courts. In the case of Gurgaon Gramin Bank vs Khazani and Ors. reported in AIR 2012 SC 2881, the Supreme Court has lamented upon the conduct of the appellant bank and asked for an affidavit detailing total expenditure on litigation till the Special Leave Petition. On finding that the total expenditure was Rs 15,950 and the award challenged by the bank was a paltry sum of just Rs 15,000.

In light of the above observations, the Court does not find any illegality in the award dated 30.09.2014 passed by the Permanent Lok Adalat”, the Court further observed while dismissing the petition.

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