DOMINION OF INDIA Vs. KHURANA BROS.
HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA
DOMINION OF INDIA
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Khosla, J. -
(1.) THE Respondent in this case, Messrs. Khurana Brothers, brought a suit for the recovery of Rs. 70 against the Governor -General in Council on account of the price of certain goods which had been consigned by him from Lahore to Amritsar and which were not delivered. The Governor -General in Council took an objection that the suit was barred by time and this objection was not upheld by the trial Court. The Governor -General in Council has accordingly come up in revision to this Court, and two points have been raised before mo. It was urged in the first place that the suit who barred by time and in the second place, it was urged that the Defendant had been wrongly described.
(2.) WITH regard to the question of limitation it was urged that Article 31, Limitation Act, applies and that the suit should have been brought within one year of the date when the goods should have been delivered at Amritsar. We must also exclude a period of two months on account of the notice served upon the Respondent (Defendant?) under Section 80, Code of Civil Procedure. It was alleged that it does not take more than two or three days for goods to be delivered at Amritsar and as the goods were consigned on 11 -11 -1946, they should in the normal course of events have been delivered at Amritsar on the 14th or 15th of November. The suit should therefore have been brought within 14th months of this date, namely on 15 -1 -1948. This suit was in fact instituted on 21 -2 -1948, and therefore was barred by time. Although it is correct to say that goods should not take more than two or three days to travel from Lahore to Amritsar, it is a matter of common knowledge that goods consigned by Railway are frequently delayed. The consignee continued to pay visits to the Railway Station at Amritsar to make enquiries regarding the goods in question until 8 -1 -1947, which was the last day on which he presented the Railway Receipt. On 3 -2 -1947 he sent a letter to the Rail, way and a reply was sent to him on 14 -3 -1947, intimating that an enquiry was being made into the matter and the action taken would be communicated to him. Nothing further happened for several months and on 18 -11 -1947 another letter was sent to the Railway and a notice was also served upon them. On 31 -1 -1948 a reply was received that action would be taken in the matter and the results communicated to the Respondent. Soon after this, namely, on 21 -2 -1948, the present suit was instituted.
(3.) IT is clear that if a man continues to make enquiries about the consignment expected by him for some weeks after the normal date of arrival he cannot be said to be wasting his enquiries or to be allowing valuable time to slip by and thereby making his remedy barred by time. Goods are frequently delayed and it was nothing unusual for the consignee to hope to receive the consignment for several weeks after the due date. Therefore, it cannot be said that as the consignment should have been received within two or three days of its being sent from Lahore this must be considered to be the time when the goods ought to have been delivered in the wording of Article 31. In my view the time in which the goods ought to be delivered must be given a slightly more liberal interpretation and in the case of a Railway, where goods are frequently delayed, the date of delivery should be considered to be the date on which the consignee is informed that the goods are not available either because they have been lost or misdirected. Naturally this time cannot be extended indefinitely and if a consignee does not choose to pursue his legal remedy for several years it cannot be said that the suit would still be within the time prescribed by Article 31. Where a consignee, however, is vigilant enough to make frequent enquiries at the place where the consignment was expected and the Railway do not give him a definite reply regarding the consignment, the consignee may assume that the goods may still be received, and it is only when a definite refusal is given to him that he can start to pursue his remedy. The learned Counsel for the Petitioner drew my attention to a Lahore case. Secy. of State v. Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd. 6 Lah. 301 :, A.I.R.1925 Lah. 478, in which it was held that the normal date of delivery is to be considered the starting period under Article 31, Limitation Act. In this case, however, five bundles were sent and one of them was actually delivered. In respect of the four which were lost or not delivered it was held, that the date on which the first one was delivered should be considered to be the date on which these four ought to have been delivered. This reasoning wars perfectly logical but would not apply to a consignment which has been totally lost or misdirected. It has been held in several cases that where a consignment is not received the period of limitation must begin on the date when the Railway Company definitely refused or expressed their inability to deliver the consignment. Reference may be made to Seetharama Sastri v. Hydara. bad State : A.I.R. 1950 Mad. 30 : 1949 -2 M.L.J. 298, Governor -General in Council v. KasiRam : AIR. 1949 pat. 263 : 29 P.L.T. 477, Palanichami Nadar v. Governor -General of India in Council, A.I.R. 1946 Mad. 133 :, 224 I.C. 436 and Jugal Kishore v. G.I.P. Rly. Co. : A.I.R. 1923 ALL. 22 : 45 ALL. 43. It may be observed that in the Patna case the Lahore view was dissented from.;
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