Ramendra Nath Dutt, J. -
(1.)One consignment of 215 bags of groundnut was booked from Shrimadhopur in Rajasthan for carriage to Howrah under Railway receipt No. 31306. The Petitioner as an endorsee of the Railway receipt for valuable consideration took delivery of the consignment from Howrah on January 21, 1966. The consignment was delivered 2 quintals 75 kgs. short. The Petitioner claimed compensation for the short delivery at Rs. 383 -13 P. The Petitioner further alleged that the goods were actually received at Howrah on December 21, 1965, but the goods were not delivered to him till January 21, 1966, due to negligence or misconduct on the part of the Railway administration. But between December 21, 1965 and January 21, 1966, there was a fall in the price of groundnuts in the Calcutta markets and due to such fall the Petitioner claimed compensation for Rs. 11,410'95 P. The Union of India resisted the claim. The Judge, Small Cause Court, decreed the claim for short delivery, that is, decreed the suit for Rs. 38313 P. but disallowed the claim for compensation for the alleged fall in price, namely, the claim for Rs. 11,410 -95 P. The Petitioner filed an application before the Full Bench of the Presidency Small Cause Court, Calcutta, under Sec. 38 of the Presidency Small Cause Courts Act. The Full Bench dismissed the application. The Petitioner thereafter obtained this Rule.
(2.)The claim for compensation for the alleged fall in price was made under Sec. 76 of the Railways Act. The learned Judge, Small Cause Court, found that the Petitioner could not claim under Sec. 76 of the Act compensation for fall in price of the goods under the alleged circumstances. The Full Bench has not considered that aspect of the matter but has found that the Petitioner failed to prove the extent of the fall, if any, in the price of the goods in question during the aforesaid period and so, the Petitioner's claim was dismissed. Mr. Choudhury places the relevant materials on record before me. The finding of the Full Bench on this point is a finding on a question of fact. Still, I have looked into the materials on record, but I am not prepared to say that the Full Bench made the finding without evidence. It is not now disputed that the goods were received by the Railway administration at Howrah on December 21, 1965 and the goods were delivered to the Petitioner on January 21, 1966. The Petitioner examined himself. He stated that during this period there was a fall of price by Rs. 18 -19 P. per quintal. This is just an oral statement. The Petitioner has not produced his account books to show when he actually sold the goods received under this consignment and at what price the goods were sold. The Petitioner examined one other witness, Manoharlal Agarwal, to prove the fall in price. He is said to be an employee of Messrs Biswanath Trading Co. He has said that the price of groundnut on December 20, 1965, was Rs. 13614 P. per quintal, the price on December 23, 1965, was Rs. 135 -30 P. per quintal, on January 17, 1966, the price was Rs. 121 -57 per quintal and on January 20, 1966, the price was Rs. 12208 P. per quintal. He has proved certain bills of Messrs. Biswanath Trading Co. He has not said that he effected the transactions in question, but he proves the handwriting of one Ramlal who wrote the bills. Clearly, therefore, this witness has no personal knowledge about the actual price prevalent on those dates. Furthermore, the bill book contains some 26 bills and these relate to a period from 1964 to 1968 or, in other words, the firm had 28 transactions in some four years. The transactions or the bills of such a firm are not much dependable. Furthermore, this witness has admitted that the price of groundnut differs in accordance with the quality. There is no evidence that the transactions evidenced by these bills relate to the same variety of groundnuts as was received under this consignment. It is not even said that the said groundnuts were also from Shrimadhopur in Rajasthan. Such is the state of evidence and on a consideration of this evidence the Full Bench has held that the Petitioner could not prove the actual fall in price of groundnut of the variety that was received by the Petitioner under this consignment. On a consideration of the materials which I have discussed I do not propose to interfere with the finding.
(3.)Since I do not interfere with this finding of fact, the Rule must be discharged. But, it also seems to me that no compensation can be claimed under Sec. 76 of the Act for such fall in the price of the goods in the aforesaid circumstances. Sec. 76 of the Act states that the Railway administration shall be responsible for loss, destruction, damage or deterioration of goods in their carriage. What does the word 'deterioration' mean? Does it mean deterioration in the condition of the goods and in consequence, the owner gets a lesser price or it means also deterioration in the sense of deterioration in the market price of the goods? Mr. Choudhury refers to a decision of the Orissa High Court in Union of India and Ors. v/s. Sheobux Satyanarayan, A.I.R. 1963 Oris. 68 where a Single Judge of the Orissa High Court has held that the word 'deterioration' is wide enough to include depreciation in value on account of a fall in the price of the goods. Mr. Choudhury then refers to a decision of the Patna High Court where again a Single Judge has held in Union of India v/s. Madanlal Kejriwal and Ors. : A.I.R. 1968 Pat. 94 that a claim for compensation on account of fall in market price is sustainable under Sec. 76 of the Act. Finally, Mr. Choudhury refers to a decision of the Punjab High Court in Union of India v/s. Panipat Woollen and General Mills Co. Ltd. : A.I.R. 1967 P&H. 497 where it has been held that compensation for loss due to fall in price on account of delay in delivery is sustainable. The decisions of the Punjab and Orissa High Courts relate to a period before the amendment of the Railways Act in 1961. The Patna High Court's decision is no doubt in respect of the amended law in 1961, but it has not considered Sec. 76 in terms, but it has considered Sec. 78(d) of the Act. When we look to the language of Sec. 76, it seems to me to be clear that what is meant by deterioration is not deterioration in price of the goods but deterioration of the goods themselves or, in other words, there must be deterioration in the condition of the goods due to delay in delivery and if because of such deterioration in the condition of the goods the consignee incurs a loss on account, of sale at a lesser price, he would be entitled to compensation from the Railway administration. The decision of the Supreme Court in Governor -General in Council now Union of India v/s. Musaddi Lal : A.I.R. 1961 S.C. 725 in respect of the meaning of the expression loss, destruction or deterioration' supports me in this interpretation which is also otherwise clear from the language used in Sec. 76 of the Act. Thus, I think that unless there is deterioration in the condition of the goods, the consignee cannot claim compensation under Sec. 76 of the Act for delay in delivery of the goods. That being the position in law, the Petitioner's claim in the instant case for compensation for fall in the price of the goods has been rightly dismissed.