Venkatesam, J. -
(1.) These three appeals arise out of three suits disposed of by a common judgment by the District Judge, of West Godavari at Eluru, in O.S. Nos. 48 and 36 of 1957 and O.S. No. 17 of 1958, respectively. These suits arose out of claims against the South-Eastern Railway, Calcutta, in O. S. No. 36 or 1957, and the Southern Railways. Madras, in the other two cases, claiming compensation for loss of goods in a fire accident, which took place in the railway goods-shed at Eluru.
(2.) The relevant fact? in A. S. 47 of 1950 may be stated thus: The plaintiff Eastern Match Company, Tirumangalam, in Madurai District, delivered at Tirumangalam Railway Station, within the Southern Railway Administration, on 11-10-1956 two consignments of safety matches consisting of 56 bundles for being forwarded to Eluru Railway Station on the same railway, and obtained from the railway authorities two Railway Receipts, Nos. G/283748, Invoice No. 1. Goods Forwarding Note No. 21, and G/283749, Invoice No. 2, Goods Forwarding Note No. 22, for the sums of Rs. 205-2-0 and Rs. 181-15-0 paid towards freight. The goods were loaded in good condition, and the Railway Receipts were made in the owners risk note form, as is customary in regard to the carriage of safety matches, for which a lower terminal was applied on that account, and they bore the endorsement that the Certificate of Packing Conditions had been obtained, and that the loading and unloading had to be done by the owner. The plaintiff-company, in the usual course, drew two hundies for Rs. 5,400/- and Rs. 4,400/- on their depot manager, one Vydula Narasingarao, at Eluru for the amount approximately equal to the value of the goods, viz., Rs. 10,270/-, and discounted the bills with their bankers M/s. Pandyan Bank Ltd., at Tirumangalam, delivering to them the Railway Receipts as well as the hundies for collection through the Central Bank of India at Eluru. The plaintiff was informed on 26-10-1956 by the depot manager at Eluru that the consignments were damaged by fire resulting in a total loss, and hence were not taken delivery of, and the concerned hundies were net honoured by him on that account.
(3.) Subsequently, the plaintiff-company learnt that the consignment in question reached Eluru on 22-10-1956, and that the Railway authorities, without waiting for the owner to unload the goods or giving him reasonable time to unload the same on their own responsibility and contrary to the conditions of the contract and the Railway regulations, unloaded the goods on the very date of arrival of the wagon, and stacked them in someplace along with crackers and other explosive materials, without taking proper precautions against fire risks, and were mostly destroyed by fire. Such of the goods as had not been fully burnt were drenched by water used for extinguishing the fire, and had become totally unfit for sale or consumption, and thus the two consignments became totally lost. The Railway Receipts were returned by the Bank to the plaintiff-company as the hundies were not honoured, and the plaintiff could not take delivery of the goods for the reasons stated above. A claim was made to the Chief Commercial Superintendent, Southern Railway, Madras, on 22-11-1956, demanding payment of Rs. 10,270/-. But after a prolonged correspondence, the railway administration disclaimed its liability, and refused to pay by its letter dated 31-7-1957. The loss by fire was directly due to the negligence and misconduct of the servants of the railway administration, and it was not accidental.;