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Report No. 38

130. Limitation for suit for compensation for postal articles.-

A question1 has been raised as to the period of limitation for a suit for compensation for a postal article which is not delivered. Some of the articles in the Limitation Act of 1908 apparently relevant to this subject, were the following:-

Article 30 (1 year) Against a carrier for compensation for losing or injuring goods.
Article 31 (1 year) Against a carrier for compensation for non delivery of, or delay in delivering goods.
Article 48 (3 years) For specific movable property lost or acquired by theft or dishonest misappropriation or conversion or for compensation for wrongfully taking or detaining the same.
Article 49 (3 years) For other specific movable property or for compensation for wrongfully taking or injuring or wrongfully detaining the same.
Article 65 (3 years) For compensation for breach of a promise to do anything at a specified time or upon the happening of a specified contingency.
Article 115 (3 years) For compensation for the breach of any control, express or implied, not in writing registered and not herein specially provided for.
Article 120 (6 years) Suit for which no period of limitation is provided elsewhere in the Schedule.

131. (a) Of these1 Articles 30 and 31 related to "carriers", and could not apply to the Post Office.

(b) Articles 65 and 115 were based on "contract" and their applicability to the Post2-3 Office could be a matter of some debate.

(c) Articles 48 and 49 allowed a period of 3 years. Article 48 was intended for acts of conversion and the like, but Article 49 could have been argued as applicable to certain kinds of acts, e.g., wrongful detention of, or injury to, a postal article.

1. Para. 133, supra.

2. Cf. paras. 24-29 and 34, supra.

3. See also Debananda v. Union of India, ILR 1964 Cut 907: AIR 1965 Ori 118.

132. The distinction between Article 31 and Article 48 is explained in the under mentioned cases1-23.

1. G.P. Venkataraman & Co. v. Union of India, AIR 1958 Mad 321 (324), paras. 10, 11 (Article 48 does not apply if the relief prayed for is not for possession).

2. Union of India v. Megh Raj, AIR 1958 Cal 434 (437), para. 14. (K.C. Das Gupta & U.C. Law

3. Martab Ali v. Union, AIR 1954 Born 297.

133. As to the distinction between Articles 48 and 49, the undermentioned case1 may be seen.

1. State of West Bengal v. Chandi Charan, AIR 1958 Cal 433 (434).

134. The question whether, in a case which falls within the language of both Articles 31 and 36, Article 31 applies or Article 36 applies would perhaps deserve consideration1. But it is unnecessary to discuss it now, as old Article 36 has now been combined with old Article 1202.

1. Cf. G.P. Venkataraman & Co. v. Union of India, AIR 1958 Mad 321 (325), para. 13.

2. See Article 113, Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963).

135. It may be noted, that the Limitation Act does not contain any specific articles dealing with suits to recover compensation under statute1-2. For a suit by the Central Government to recover a statutory cess, the starting point would be governed by Article 120 (residuary) and not by Article 50 (hire of animals, etc.)3.

Again, for compensation under rule 75A of the Defence of India Rules 1939, Article 120 is the appropriate4-5.

Hence, if the liability of the Post Office is regarded as purely statutory, Article 120 would apply to suits for compensation for loss, etc., of postal articles6.

Since there is no specific article fixing the time limit for a suit to enforce a statutory liability for specific performance of the contract inferable from a statute or statutory rules; Article 120 would, presumably, apply7.

1. Bapiraju v. Azimullah, AIR 1957 AP 79 (81), para. 15 (Subba Rao C.J. and Bhimasankaran J.) (Article 120 applies to a suit for compensation under the Vegetable, etc., oils Order).

2. See also para. 105, supra.

3. R.C. fall v. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 1281 (1284), para. 5.

4. Panchanan Das v. Province of Orissa, AIR 1955 Ori 57 (60), para. 8.

5. See also State of West Bengal v. brindaban, AIR 1957 Cal 44, paras. 13-19, and paras. 42¬44.

6. Cf. Mathura Prasad.v. Gaya Municipality, AIR 1938 Pat 192.

7. Cf. Brij Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1954 All 383 (405), para. 54 (case relating to specific performance of a contract for mining lease).

136. It is possible to argue that the Government is not governed by Article 115, particularly in respect of claims relating to insured postal articles where insurance is compulsory1-2-3.

1. Cf. Tretel (Law of Contract) (1966), p. 5.

2. As to "compulsory contracts, compare Jaitindra Nath v. Calcutta Corporation, AIR 1945 Cal 144 (152) (Article 120).

3. For history of Article 115, see Tricomdas v. Gopi Nath, 1916 ILR 44 Cal 759 (766) (PC).

137. In one case, it has been held1, that since the Post Office does not carry articles for hire, but is performing its duties as a branch of the revenue, it is not a "common carrier". As regards limitation, it was held, that Articles 65 or 120 (of the Act of 1908 would apply. In either case, the period would be three years or more.

[It may be noted, that though the Government is not a "common carrier" for the purposes of the Carriers Act2, it has been held3, that the Secretary of State, when sued as the owner of a railway concern, is a "carrier" for the purpose of Article 31 of the Limitation Act, 1908].

1. Debananda v. Union of India, ILR 1964 Cuttack 903: AIR 1965 Ori 118.

2. See section 2, definition of " common carrier", Carriers Act, 1865 (3 of 1865).

3. See Alamgir Footwear Co. v. Secretary of State, AIR 1933 All 466 (case regarding railway).

138. Whatever be the precise article applicable, it is obvious, that the period would not be less than 3 years.

Now, it has been suggested1-2 by the Department, that the period should be one year. The suggestion also states, that Article 120 of the old Act has been held to be applicable to suits for compensation for postal articles.

The judgment referred to by the Department seems to be a judgment of the District Judge, Jaunpur3. It was held in that case, that a suit for compensation for loss of currency-notes sent in an insured cover would not be governed by Articles 30 and 31, as the Post Office is not a "carrier", but it merely transmits articles from one place to another and the transmitted articles are actually carried by other carriers4.

1. S. No. 1-Suggestion of the Department of the Government of India concerned with the Post Office.

2. The suggestion in question was made after the Law Commission Third Report (Limitation Act) was submitted.

3. Sanwa! Das (Firm) v. Union of India, Civil Appeal No. 646 of 1954 decided by the District Judge, Jaunpur on 31-3-1968.

4. A copy of the judgment is contained in D.G. P.&T. file No. 12-5-/60-CI, which we had obtained for perusal.

139. It may be noted, that the reason why a short period of limitation was provided in Articles 30 and 31 was the difficulty of investigating and settling claims preferred against carriers after a long lapse of time, in respect of a few articles out of the quantity of goods that are constantly passing through their hands1-2-3. These reasons apply to the Post Office also.

1. See G.I.P. Rly Co. v. Radha Kishan, AIR 1926 Nag 57 (59) (DB).

2. Jaldu v. Asiatic Steam Navigation Co., 1916 ILR 39 Mad 314 (315) (referring judgment of Spencer J.): AIR 1916 Mad 314 (315).

3. Gulab Rai v. Secretary of State for India in Council, ILR (1941) (2) Cal 160 (167).

140. The above discussion is with reference to the Limitation Act of 1908. The Limitation Act of 19631, which has replaced the Act of 1908, makes certain changes. Thereunder, the suits governed by old Articles 30-31 are governed by the time-limit of three years (instead of 1 year)2. This change is the result of the recommendation made in the Law Commission's Report on the Limitation Act3. That Report recommended an increase in the period, because, in the case of railways, it is common knowledge that a long time is spent by the consignee in correspondence and, often, lengthy correspondence ensues.

The question of postal articles was not considered specifically. We think, that in respect of postal articles, the period of one year should suffice. Postal articles are not so costly as those sent by rail, and do not pass through many "systems" (as in case of Railways). Nor are they so numerous as to involve a study of many accounts before a suit is filed.

1. Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963).

2. See Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963) Articles 10 and 11.

3. Third Report of the Law Commission (Limitation Act).

141. We, therefore, recommend, that two articles dealing with compensation for postal articles may be inserted in the Limitation Act1, say, after Article 11 of the new Limitation Act (corresponding to old Article 31), fixing a period of one year2 for such suits3.

The starting point should be the same as is mentioned in Articles 10 and 11 of the Limitation Act, 1963.

1. Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963).

2. See para. 140, supra.

3. As to rules relating to disposal of undelivered postal articles, see sections 37 to 39 of the Act, and Rules 208 to 215 of the Indian Post Office Rules, 1953.

142. The new articles to be added1 in the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 19632 may run somewhat on these lines:-

"IIA. Against the Central Government for compensation for losing or injuring a postal article. One year When the loss of injury occurs.
[Cf. Article 10 Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963).
IIB. Against the Central Government for compensation for non-delivery of or delay in delivering a postal article. One year When the postal articles ought to be delivered.3
[Cf. Article 11 Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963).]

Note- The heading in the portion of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 which governs Articles 6-55, is "Suits on Contracts". The articles themselves may, however cover suits on torts also.4-5

Indian Post Office Act, 1898 Back

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