Kantawala Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 99 (31 January 1997)
AGRAWAL, S. SAGHIR AHMAD
O R D E
appeal is directed against the judgment of the Bombay High Court dated September 16, 1994 whereby the Writ Petition No. 25 of
1992 filed by the appellant has been dismissed.
said Writ petition relates to the enforcement of the "Delivery to Mail
Order 1991" (hereinafter referred to as `the 1991 Order') issued by the
Director General of Posts and Telegraphs in exercise of the powers conferred by
sub- section (3) of Section 21 of the Indian Post Office Act, 1898 (hereinafter
referred to as `the Act') vide notification dated May 29, 1991. The 1991 Order
was issued to deal with the growing problem of delivery of mail in high-rise
multi-storeyed buildings that have come up as a result of vertical expansion of
the large towns in the country. It provided for delivery of unregistered mail
by the Post Office in he mail box of the addressee to be put at the ground
floor of the building in which the addressee is located. By the impugned
judgment, the High Court has upheld the validity of the said order. While the
matter was pending in this Court, the 1991 Order has been superseded by the
"Delivery of Postal Articles Order, 1996"(hereinafter referred to as
`the 1996 Order') which has also been issued by the Director General of Posts
and Telegraphs in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (3) of the
Act vide notification dated November 24, 1995.
have heard the appellant in person as well as Shri P.P. Malhotra, the learned
senior counsel appearing for the Union of India, and Shri D.N. Mishra, the
learned counsel for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay.
appellant has made a grievance mainly with reference to the conditions in the
city of Bombay and especially in respect of the
existing buildings. It has been urged that in most of the existing multi-storeyed
buildings no space has been provided for keeping mail boxes for the residents
and since the facilities of mail boxes cannot be provided in such buildings,
the same should be excluded from the operation of the 1996 Order. As regard the
buildings which would be coming up in the future, it has been submitted that
necessary provision should be made in the regulations governing grant of
sanction of the plan as well as the completion and occupancy certificate to
ensure that the suitable provision is made for installing mail boxes in such
appellant has also raised a legal submission about the validity of the 1991
Order and has invited our attention to clause (c) of Section 3 of the Act
wherein the expressions "in course of transmission by post" and
"delivery" have been defined. The submission is that 1991 Order as
well as 1996 Order are ultra vires the provisions of the Act because clause (c)
of Section 3 of the Act only postulates delivery at the house or office of the
addressee, or to the addressee or his servant or agent or other person
considered to the authorised to receive the article and does not postulate
delivery in other manner and that delivery in a mail box which is not kept in
the house or office of the addressee is not permissible under the said
provision. We do not find any force in this submission. Under Section 3(c) it
is permissible to make delivery of the postal article at the house or office of
the addressee. The expression "house or office of the addressee" in
Section 3(c) cannot be confined to the part of the building in which the
addressee is residing or has his office. The said expression would include the
building in which the residence or office of the addressee is situate. The
delivery of a postal article in a mail box kept in the building in which the
residence or office of the addressee is located has to be treated as delivery
at the house or office of the addressee. The provision in the 1996 Order
regarding delivery of the postal article in the mail box of the addressee
cannot, therefore, be held to be impermissible under Section 3(c) of the Act.
question that remains to be considered is whether the provision for having a
mail box for the residents in existing buildings in Bombay city which do not have space for
keeping mail boxes can be regarded as fair and reasonable. In this regard, it
may be mentioned that during the pendency of the Writ Petition in the High
Court, a Committee of Members of Parliament was appointed by the Central
Government to examine the Mail Box Delivery Scheme in Bombay city. The said Committee submitted
its report in November 1992. In its report the Committee has pointed court that
the old buildings in congested localities of Bombay mostly consist of ground and four upper floors and their
passages are very narrow and that it would be difficult to compel the occupants
to receive their mail through mail boxes provided on the ground floor. The
Committee felt that it would create great hardship if the scheme is implemented
in buildings consisting of ground and four upper floors only which were mostly
constructed prior to the year 1940 and are tenanted premises and that in many
cases such buildings will have to be exempted from the operation of the scheme.
The Committee made the following recommendations:-
5 : RECOMMENDATIONS :-
Considering all the aspects of the Mail Box Scheme and the objections of the
Citizens particularly on the ground of lack of space for putting up Mail Boxes
and appreciating the merits of the Scheme, the Committee makes the following
The Postal authorities may undertake rigorous campaign to create awareness
among the citizens regarding the usefulness of the scheme. Government of Maharashtra may also be approached for making
appropriate amendments in the Bombay rent
Act to enable tenants to put up mail box in the common passages of buildings.
Voluntary acceptance in such cases may be encouraged by the Postal Department.
The Mail Box Scheme should be introduced in the buildings which shall be
hereinafter constructed and in the building which are still under construction.
For this purpose, it is gratifying to note that the Development Control
Regulations for Greater Bombay 1991 issued by the Urban Development
departments, Government of Maharashtra, and published in the Maharashtra
Gazette part I Kaukan Divisional Supplement dated 21.2.1991 contains a
provision, `a letter box of appropriate dimensions shall be provided on the
ground floor of residence, Commercial buildings with 5 or more storeys, to the
satisfaction of the commissioner'. The Postal Department, therefore, may
prevail upon the Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay not to pass any
building proposal unless the aforesaid condition of the letter box is complied
with and not to give completion certificate to buildings under construction
till the aforesaid condition is satisfied. Thus a good beginning can be made
and in course of time may many new buildings in Bombay will have implemented this scheme.
The Scheme should apply also to the existing high rise buildings with 6 storeys
(ground + 5 floors) and more. However in these cases also where in respect of
any particular building genuine hardships are placed before the Postmaster
General Bombay or his authorised nominee and the same are found to be true the
said building may be exempted from the scheme.
of such buildings are on ownership basis and therefore the problem of landlord
objecting will not arise. Except the new building to be constructed as stated
the high rise buildings as stated in para 5.4 all the existing buildings should
be exempted from the scheme.
already stated earlier in para 3.11 while there may be instances of genuine
hardships likely to arise from the implementation of the scheme there are some
merits also in the scheme.
scheme cannot, therefore be rejected our tight. It will have to be introduced
cautiously without causing hardship to the people Public awareness is to be
created while introducing the scheme.
Adequate time, say 3 months, may be given to those who are required to comply
with the scheme.
The Committee also strongly feels that the approach of the Ministry of
Communications and the Government of India that Postal Department is a
commercial department may be reviewed and revised. Like Health and Education,
it should be considered as a Department rendering social service to the society
and from that point of view the general ban on sanctioning the additional
postal staff particularly the Postmen, and the strict out on the expenses on
opening of new post offices may be given up. This Department may be treated as
a department rendering social service to the citizens at large, and keeping in
view the essential requirements of the citizens for maintaining vital
communications and requirements of the staff for catering to the needs of the
public post offices be given top priority in the budgetary provisions of the
Government." Keeping in view the recommendations of the said Committee, by
clause 2 of the 1996 Order multi-storeyed buildings having five storeys (ground
plus four floors) are excluded from the ambit of the said order. Furthermore,
the 1996 Order contains a provision in clause 4 regarding exemption of certain
buildings from the ambit of the said order. Clause 4 reads as follows :-
"Clause 4, Power to exempt - Where there is genuine difficult in complying
with the provisions of this order in a particular building, the Chief Post
Master General, Post Master General Senior Superintendent of Post Offices, or
as the case many be, the Superintendent of Post Offices, may for reasons to be
recorded in writing, exempt the said building from the provisions of this
order." The Department has proposed the following guidelines for
exercising the power to relax delivery of postal article under the 1996 Order
for existing buildings as per clause 4 of the said order:-
GUIDELINES FOR EXERCISING THE POWERS TO RELAX DELIVERY OF POSTAL ARTICLES ORDER
1995 FOR EXISTING BUILDINGS AS PROVIDED FOR IN RULE OF THE ABOVE CITED ORDER.
application could be made before the Supdt. of Post Officers/SSPOs/PHG/CPMG by
10.2.97 this date is tentatively fixed for Bombay and will be decided separately for each area.
authorised official from the Post Office would be sent to the premises within 7
days of receipt of the application to report on whether post boxes could be
fixed on the ground floor or find out a viz media of installation of a
community box for delivery of postal articles to an authorised person which
could be the caretaker of the building/society. He will submit his report
within three days from the date of his visit.
applicant will be given the extract of report and he may make his
representation against or in favour within 3 days of the report and after
considering the report of the authorised offices, representation, if any, of
the applicant, the authority to which the application was addressed will decide
application will be decided within one month of its receipt and the decision
conveyed to the applicant.
During the period of deliberation of the application the postal articles will
continue to be delivered at the doorstep of the addressee or at a common place
agreed to by the Caretaker/management of the building/society." The
aforementioned guidelines contain adequate provisions for ensuring that the
power to grant exemption under clause 4 of the 1996 Order is exercised
would, however, direct that the following changes be made in the guidelines :-
(i) In paragraph 1 of the guidelines the last date fixed for submission of
applications shall be March 31, 1997, instead of February 19. 1997.
In paragraph 2 of the guidelines it should be prescribed that the officer
before going to the building concerned for inspection shall give prior notice
of the date and time of his visit to the building to the person who has
submitted the application referred to in paragraph 1 of the guidelines.
takes care of the existing buildings.
regards buildings to be constructed in future, we find that the Urban
Development Department of the Government of Maharashtra has made the
Development Control Regulations for Greater Bombay, 1991 which have been
published in Maharashtra Government Part-I dated February 21, 1991. The said regulations provide that "a letter box of an
appropriate dimension shall be provided on the ground floor of residence,
commercial buildings with five or more storeys to the satisfaction of the
Commissioner". The Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay must ensure
that no plan for a building is approved unless it contains provision for space
for mail boxes and no plan is being sanctioned which does not contain such
provision, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay will also ensure hat no
occupancy and completion certificate is granted in respect of any building if
it does not satisfy the aforesaid requirement.
the 1996 Order is applicable throughout the country and high-rise multi-storeyed
buildings are coming up in other towns, it is expected that the States as well
as the Union Territories shall make suitable provisions on the same lines as
have been made in Maharashtra and that the local authorities in the various
towns will follow the above mentioned directions given with regard to
sanctioning of plans for new buildings and granting of completion and occupancy
certificates for such buildings.
appeal is disposed of accordingly. No costs.