Desk To Desk Courier And Cargo vs Kerala State Electronics … on 17 February, 2004

National Consumer Disputes Redressal
Desk To Desk Courier And Cargo vs Kerala State Electronics … on 17 February, 2004
Equivalent citations: II (2004) CPJ 39 NC
Bench: K G Member, R Rao, B Taimni


ORDER

K.S. Gupta, Presiding Member

1. This appeal is directed against the order dated 18.7.1995 of State Commission, New Delhi whereby appellant/opposite party was directed to pay Rs. 2,30,057.36 with interest, etc. to the respondent/complainant.

2. Facts giving rise to this appeal lie in a narrow compass. Respondent booked a parcel on 25.2.1991 with the appellant for being delivered at the respondent’s office at Cybernatics Division, Trivandrum. Appellant charged Rs. 180/- as carriage charge. On failure of appellant to deliver the parcel at the said office of the respondent, the respondent filed complaint claiming the value of electronic component contained in the parcel of Rs. 2,30,057.36 with interest and damages. Complaint was contested by the appellant. It was admitted that a parcel weighing 2 kgs. 200 gms. was booked by the respondent for being delivered at Trivandrum. It was, however, stated that the description or value of parcel was not disclosed to the appellant nor was it aware of the same. No bill or invoice was handed over by the respondent’s agent at the time of booking disclosing the nature and value of the goods contained in the parcel. It was further pleaded that the parties were governed by the terms and conditions of the contract which were printed on the consignment note. The particular terms and conditions relied upon were, (i) appellant’s liablility- was limited to Rs. 100/- per consignment, (ii) all claims were to be submitted within 30 days of the booking, where the value of consignment exceeded Rs. 1,000/-, consignor was required to declare the value thereof and arrange its insurance for transit loss or damage. Appellant was, thus, not liable beyond Rs. 100/-. Despite bona fide efforts made by the appellant, the parcel could not be traced out.

3. Contention advanced by Mr. S. K. Misra for appellant was that at the time of booking, the respondent did not declare the value and/ or the nature of the contents of parcel and consignment note in question was signed by the representative of respondent below the clause of limiting liability in token of having accepted all the terms and conditions printed in the face and also on reverse of consignment note which limit the liability of appellant in case of loss in transit to only Rs. 100/-. Reliance was placed on the decision in Bharati Knitting Company v. DHL Worldwide Express Courier of Air Freight Ltd., II (1996) CPJ 25 (SC). Copies of two affidavits of U.P. Shivadas and K.K. Nambiar filed in support of the complaint before State Commission are placed at pages 162-166, while that of consignment note dated 25.2.1991 which is dim at p 30. Copy of affidavit of S. Banerjee filed by the appellant is at pp 36-37. Specimen copy of the consignment note which was in vogue at the relevant time filed by the appellant is at pp 132-134. Copy of consignment note (at p 30) would show that the space provided therein for giving the description and declaring the value of consignment have been left blank and immediately below the clause of limiting liability, signature of the representative of respondent appears. Further, the face of consignment note states that the liability of appellant is limited to a maximum of Rs. 100/- per consignment and booking was subject to the terms and conditions as shown on the reverse of the shipper’s copy. Condition No. 4 printed on the reverse of consignment note provides that the liability of appellant for any loss or damage to the consignment is limited to Rs. 100/-. Condition No. 7 also provides that the shipper (respondent) may, if it so desires, insure the shipment at its own cost. Out of said two affidavits filed by the respondent, only the affidavit of K.K. Nambiar who had gone along with one more person to the office of appellant at Rajendra Place for booking the parcel, is relevant. It was averred in that affidavit that along with the parcel containing computer card, invoice No. 347 was also handed over, value of the computer card being approximately Rs. 2.3 lakhs was disclosed to the agent of appellant at the time of booking; appellant’s agent at Rajendra Place never disclosed the terms and conditions of consignment note or asked to obtain insurance cover for transit loss. A person who signs a document containing contractual terms is normally bound by them even though he had not read them or was ignorant of their precise legal effect. Thus, assuming that Mr. Nambiar was not explained the terms and conditions printed on the consignment note (copy at p 30) which is signed by him, he will be deemed to have agreed and accepted the terms and conditions printed on the face and reverse of the said consignment note. To be only noted that the copy of invoice, placed on the file which was alleged to have been handed over at the time of booking, does not specify the value of computer card as being approximately Rs. 2.3 lakhs. Obviously, it is a case of nondisclosure of the value of computer card, the value having not been shown either in the said consignment note and/or the invoice. Present case is squarely covered by Bharati Knitting Co.’s case (supra). Since the liability of appellant was limited to a maximum sum of Rs. 100/- in case of loss of consignment in transit as per the terms and conditions of the above consignment note, the respondent is not entitled to the sum awarded by the State Commission. Impugned order, thus, deserves to be set aside being legally erfqneous. Applying the ratio of the said decision, respondent is entitled to Rs. 100/- with interest @ 18% p.a. w.e.f. 25.2.1991 on which date the parcel was booked.

Accordingly, while allowing appeal, the order dated 18.7.1995 is set aside and appellant is directed to pay Rs. 100/- with interest @ 18% p.a. w.e.f. 25.2.1991 to the respondent. No order as to cost.

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