15 July 2024


High Court of Gauhati

The Union of India Vs. Shree Gopal Enterprises




Railway administration cannot be held liable for preserving relevant documents after expiry of 6 months from date of delivery of consignment

Present appeal under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 is against the judgment and order passed by the learned Railway Claims Tribunal. Issue involved in present case is whether there was any requirement of the Railway Administration to produce rivets, seals/labels etc. and unloading tally book in respect of consignments are booked at Railway risk under "said to contain" basis and that whether the impugned judgment is sustainable in facts and in law.

In instant case, no request was made to the NF Railway Administration by the Respondent within the prescribed time of six months period to preserve the seal and card labels. In the opinion of present Court, unless either by a letter or by an order by the learned Tribunal, the Railway administration is communicated to preserve the relevant documents like, the original RR, forwarding note, transit report and seal and card labels, loading and unloading tally book, the Railway Administration was under no obligation to preserve and to produce such seals, labels, documents, before the learned Railway Claims Tribunal. Merely because at one point of time, an allegation of shortage of consignment is made, the Railway administration are not obliged to preserve the necessary documents for unlimited time.

Rule 1714 of IRCM-II cannot be invoked if demand for preservation of such documents are not made within the period of six months from the date of delivery of consignment. The Railways had no notice to produce the card and seal labels. The Respondent had filed a petition for production of such document after about 10 years. On such petition, the Railways had taken a stand that, the documents were not available. Present Court finds no infirmity in the said stand, which is not violative of Rule 1714 of IRCM-II.

Under the circumstances, notwithstanding that the goods were transported at "Railway Risk" which, as stated in the bar entails 20% excess charge to cover for the Railway risk, as the goods were booked under "said to contain" basis, the Railway Administration shall not be responsible for the loss. There was no initial complaint that, the wagon seals and card labels were absent, rivet seals were broken or that the door was in the open condition at the time of unloading and that stacks of goods were in disturbed condition with wagon body found broken, damage and having cut holes. Hence, said condition of the wagons having not been brought to the notice of the Appellant, it cannot be concluded that the Railways were at fault for the short delivery of goods.

As the railway administration was not asked to preserve the relevant documents, prior to expiry of 6 months from the date of delivery of consignment, there was no requirement of the Railway Administration to preserve and/or to produce the rivets, seal and card labels, loading, unloading tally book, etc. in respect of consignments are booked at Railway risk under "said to contain" basis.

It is seen that in present case, the shortage is being projected to be a loss of 1,313 kg. sugar. In present case, the Respondent did not produce any beejuk, or did not tender any other evidence before the learned Tribunal to prove the record of the actual weight of sugar per bag. From the materials available on record, it does not appear that, any prayer was made before the Railways for open delivery of consignment of sugar. Under the circumstances, when the Railways administration did not check the condition or weight of every bag of sugar before loading, present Court finds it impossible to concur with the finding by the learned Tribunal that, the Railways was responsible for the shortage of 1,313 kg. sugar.

Such loss and/or shortage of 1,313 kg. Sugar falls within the exception as provided under sub-section (g) and (h) of the Section 93 of the Railways Act, 1989. The Railways cannot be held to be responsible for compensating the loss amounting to Rs. 22,321. Accordingly, the computation/assessment of loss is also not found sustainable. The said finding by the learned Railway Claims Tribunal is interfered with and is set aside. Appeal stands allowed. Consequently, the claim petition stands dismissed.

Tags : Loss Compensation Validity

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