26 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

The Superintendent of Post Office, Bolangir Division, Bolangir, Odisha Vs. Jambu Kumar Jain and Ors.

MANU/SC/0240/2020

02.03.2020

Consumer

Certificate lost, stolen, mutilated, defaced or destroyed beyond recognition cannot be replaced by any post office

A Complaint was filed by the Respondent before the District Forum contending that, 88 Indira Vikas Patras ('IVP') of the denomination of Rs. 5000 each, purchased by the father of the complainant sometime during the period 1996 to 1998, were lost in the month of June, 2001. A police complaint was lodged alleging theft of those IVPs and thereafter by intimation, a request was made to the Superintendent of Post Offices, Bolangir to stop payment of any amount upon maturity of the IVPs without proper verification of the holder. It was further submitted that, despite demands made by the complainant, the value of the lost IVPs was not being made over by the Post Office to him and as such, there was deficiency in service on part of the Post Office.

With the aforesaid allegations, the following principal reliefs were claimed in the complaint that, The O.P. be directed to pay the maturity value of 88 numbers of IVP of Rs. 5,000 each denomination = Rs. 8,80,000 and due interest till final payment is made. A sum of Rs. 1,00,000 as claimed as compensation for deficiency in service and loss caused to the complaint and Rs. 10,000 is claimed towards the cost of litigation. The aforesaid complaint was allowed by the District forum vide its order. The Appellant being aggrieved filed Appeal before the State Commission, which was dismissed by the State Commission on the ground of non-prosecution.

In terms of Rule 5 of the Indira Vikas Patra Rules, 1986, IVPs could be purchased at any Post Office after payment in cash or by a Cheque/Pay Order or Demand Draft and no formal application was necessary for such purchase. As against payment made in Cash, the IVPs would be delivered immediately while in respect of payments made either through Cheque or Pay Order or Demand Draft, the same would be issued only after the encashment of any of those instruments. In terms of Rule 6(4), IVPs were transferable. According to Rule 7(1), if the Certificate was mutilated or defaced, the bearer would be entitled to have it replaced on payment of fee of rupee one but if the certificate was lost or stolen or mutilated or defaced or destroyed beyond recognition, in terms of Rule 7(2) it would not be replaced by any Post Office.

It is not in dispute that the IVPs in the present matter were purchased through cash. At no stage, the identity of the purchaser was thus disclosed or registered with the Department. In a situation, where the IVPs were purchased either through Cheque of Pay Order or Demand Draft, there would still be a possibility, through link evidence, to establish the identity of the purchaser but in case of a purchase through the modality of cash, there would be nothing on record which could establish the identity of the purchaser. It may be that there are no claims in respect of the IVPs in question but that does not mean that any person can claim maturity sum in respect of such IVPs and offer an indemnity.

The matter has to be considered purely from the perspective of the governing Rules. If in case the IVPs are lost/stolen or mutilated or defaced beyond recognition, the Rules are clear that they shall not be replaced by the Post Office. In the face of such statutory provision, the refusal on the part of the Department to entertain any request for maturity sum was absolutely right and justified. It can never be said that, there was deficiency on the part of the Department in rendering any service expected of them.

If the Department had refused to encash the Certificates upon presentation or even after encashment had refused to make the payment or had made short payment, there could still be a grievance about deficiency in service but if the Certificates themselves are lost and the identity of the initial holder could never be established through the record, the Department was well within its rights not to accept the prayer for return of the maturity sum.

In Central Government of India and Ors. v. Krishnaji Parvetesh Kulkarni, similar prayer made through a writ petition, was rejected by this Court with following observations: An IVP is akin to an ordinary currency note. It bears no name of the holder. Just as a lost currency note cannot be replaced, similarly the question of replacing a lost IVP does not arise. Rule 7(2) makes the position clear that a certificate lost, stolen, mutilated, defaced or destroyed beyond recognition will not be replaced by any post office. Similar is the position as regards the certificate which is either lost or stolen. Undisputedly, there was no challenge to the legality of the Rule 7(2). In the absence of a challenge to the provision, any direction should not really have been given. It is fundamental that no direction which is contrary to law can be given.

The District Forum and the National Commission completely erred in accepting the claim. The view taken by the National Commission is set aside. Appeal allowed.

Relevant

Central Government of India and Ors. v. Krishnaji Parvetesh Kulkarni MANU/SC/1843/2006

Tags : Deficiency Compensation Legality

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