The court, in its ruling, also said the responsibility of a government unit towards the public it serves is double that of its private counterpart. The case of lost parcel Shripal Shah, a city-based businessman dealing in organic food and natural products, had sent three parcels via post to Islampur village in West Bengal in July 2015. The parcels contained 21 kg of handspun yarn of non-violent silk with natural dye and were being sent for weaving. For each parcel, Shah paid delivery charge of Rs 268 at the department’s city head office in Navrangpura.
However, every time I was told that inquiry was on,” he said. Finally, after losing all hope, he approached the Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum (CDRF), Ahmedabad Additional, on October 6, 2016. He claimed Rs 28,700 with 18% interest and Rs 10,000 each for legal cost and mental harassment.
How he won the case
During hearing of the case, the defence advocate said the postal department was willing to refund delivery charge collected for the missing parcel, but argued that they would not pay for its content as they were not aware of what was inside. He added that the consumer should have got the parcel insured. However, the complainant’s advocate, Darshak Trivedi, countered saying that the office had not asked about the item or its cost while weighing it.
He further argued that once payment had been made, it was the responsibility of the post office to ensure the parcel reached its destination. He added that instead of asking the consumer, the postal department should have taken insurance if they were unsure of delivery of the parcel or feared it would be stolen. When the defence cited section 6 of the Indian Postal Act and argued that neither the post office nor its officer was responsible in case of an error or theft during the process of delivery by post, the prosecution pointed out that Act also includes a section where the department would be held responsible if there was deficiency in services or scope for fraudulence.
To support his argument, prosecution lawyer Trivedi also presented the National Commission judgment of 2016 before the court wherein the commission ordered the postal department to pay up the cost of a lost parcel with 9% interest along with Rs 50,000 for mental harassment The defence advocate refuted charges of deficiency in service and said that the department was ready to refund the amount collected for delivery of the parcel.
The CDRF, Ahmedabad Additional, ordered the post office to pay Rs 28,700 with 9% interest from July 17, 2015 till date it is paid, Rs 3,000 for mental harassment and Rs 2,000 for legal cost. The order came on December 30, 2017. Putting aside the department’s argument that the customer had chosen it as it was cheaper, the court observed that post office is a government organisation and its responsibility double towards the customer.
Trivedi said, “It is the moral responsibility of the postal department to see that the parcel reaches the given address within the given time frame. It was within India and should have been delivered. Showing a few sections of the Act, they can’t get away from their responsibility. It was wrong on their part to offer only the cost of the parcel.”
Expressing satisfaction at getting justice, Shah said, “I am happy with the judgment. It takes a long time for a relationship to develop, but such deficiency affects business and relationships with customers immediately.” Acompetent authority from Navrangpura post office stated, “The postal department will take a suitable decision as it deems fit.”