NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
(From the Order dated 04.10.2006 in Appeal No. 810 of 1998 of the State Commission, Punjab).
M/s. Sehgal Knitwears Petitioner
421, Industrial Area A,
Ludhiana – 141 003
Through its Partner Mukesh Sehgal
M/s United India Insurance Company Respondent
Near Palki Restaurant
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE M. B. SHAH PRESIDENT
HON’BLE MRS. RAJYALAKSHMI RAO MEMBER
HON’BLE MR. ANUPAM DASGUPTA MEMBER
For the Petitioner IN PERSON
For the Respondent Ms. Sakshi Mittal, Advocate
Dated the 4th August, 2008.
This revision petition challenges the order dated 4th October 2006 of the Punjab State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (the “State Commission”) in First Appeal no. 810 of 1998, instituted on 24th August 1998.
2. The impugned order of the State Commission was, in fact, passed after remand of the matter to it by this Commission’s order dated 23rd May 2006 in revision petition no. 2233 of 1999. The principal ground of the remand was, “..... In our view if the survey report was produced on record, it was the duty of the State Commission to consider the same and appreciate the same before passing the impugned order. However, the respondent, who is appearing in person, submits that the said survey report was not produced on record. Considering the aforesaid submission, in our view, it is apparent that the matter is required to be remanded. If the survey report is produced on record, it would have its own effect. The same is required to be appreciated by the State Commission.” This Commission also observed in the same order, “.... If it is found that the survey report was not produced on record by the Insurance Company, Insurance Company would pay an additional amount of Rs. 5,000/- as costs to the complainant.”
3. In brief, the facts are:
(i) The complainant (petitioner here) filed a complaint (no. 542 dated 29th August 1997) before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Ludhiana (the “District Forum”) alleging that there was short delivery of 335 kg of raw acrylic fibre (white) from out of the consignment of 41 bales of the commodity which the complainant had imported from its supplier based in Seoul, South Korea but the Insurance Company (respondent here), with which the consignment had been insured, had refused to indemnify the loss valued at Rs. 58,521.15.
(ii) The gross weight of the consignment of 41 packed bales was 9,410 kg. The consignment, shipped by sea, reached Mumbai port in December 1995 – January 1996. From there it was transported by road by the carrier, M/s Tradewing Carriers India to the complainant’s business premises in Ludhiana. The short delivery of 335 kg of the raw acrylic fibre was confirmed by the carrier under its letter of 10th May 1996. The claim lodged by the complainant was, however, not paid up by the Insurance Company. In the proceedings before the District Forum, the Insurance Company stated that the claim was repudiated in September 1997 because, inter alia, the weight of the consignment raw acrylic fibre delivered to the complainant of was 9,065 kg as against 9,000 kg which was the weight of said the fibre covered by the insurance policy. The District Forum concurred with the Insurance Company’s submissions and dismissed the complaint.
(iii) In appeal, after a fairly detailed and cogent appreciation of the evidence, the State Commission first decided the matter, by its order of 21st September 1999, in favour of the complainant. However, as observed, while disposing of a revision petition of the Insurance Company, the case was remanded back to the State Commission by this Commission for consideration of the survey report. This led to the impugned order of the State Commission, dismissing the complaint and hence this revision petition by the complainant.
4. In the impugned order, the State Commission notes that it had considered the survey report which had been produced by the Insurance Company before the District Forum. Based on further analysis of other evidence on record, this time, however, the State Commission came to a conclusion diametrically opposite to that in its order of 21st September 1999. In dismissing the appeal of the complainant, the State Commission held that as against the insured quantity of 9,000 kg of raw acrylic fibre, the complainant was delivered 9,065 kg of the said commodity and hence there was no question of any loss to the complainant.
5. Before us, the complainant has pleaded his case personally. He has produced all necessary documents and shown that the gross weight of the 41 bales of the commodity, in packed condition, was 9,410. The net weight of the raw acrylic fibre (excluding, naturally, the weight of the packing material) was 9,000 kg. These two details are borne out even by the surveyor’s report. The “Commercial Invoice” on record also shows the net weight of the raw acrylic fibre as 9,000 kg – this is attached to the insurance policy issued by the Insurance Company. The “Packing List”, also attached to the said policy, confirms the gross weight (of the 41 bales) at 9,410 kg and net weight (of the acrylic fibre) at 9,000 kg respectively, and these again tally with the entries in the “Bill of Lading”.
6. The petitioner – complainant has also produced on record the weighment slip of the consignment delivered to his business premises, issued by “Pooja Dharam Kanta” at Ludhiana. This slip shows the tare weight of the truck as 7,030 kg and that of the loaded truck (gross, with 41 bales) as 16,095 kg. Thus, the gross weight of the consignment is clearly 9,065 kg. This has to be compared with the gross weight in all the shipping documents mentioned above and also noticed in the Surveyor’s report, all of which considered together show that the gross weight of the 41 bales of white raw acrylic fibre shipped from South Korea and received at Mumbai was 9,410 kg. Thus, according to this weighment document (not challenged by the respondent at any stage) the gross weight of the consignment delivered to the complainant at Ludhiana was short by 345 kg. On the other hand, the G.C. Note no. 097942 dated 10th January 1996 issued by the carrier shows the gross weight of the consignment despatched from Mumbai as 9,400 kg. Taking even this lower gross weight as the basis, the short delivery in terms of gross weight would be 335 kg of raw acrylic fibre at the consignee’s premises. It is no body’s case that the net weight of the acrylic fibre (shorn of all packaging in the bales) was ever taken. The shortage in the net, i.e., insured weight of the raw acrylic fibre would thus have to be deduced, by simple arithmetic, from the difference/shortage between the gross weight of the consignment desptached from Mumbai and that received at Ludhiana.
7. In view of the foregoing discussion, we hold that there was indeed a short delivery of 335 kg (at least) of the insured commodity, viz., raw acrylic fibre to the petitioner, for which the petitioner is entitled to be compensated by the Insurance Company under the terms of the insurance policy. The value of the (short-delivered) quantity of this commodity, at the then prevailing rate, was a paltry sum of Rs. 58,521.15. And, yet, the complainant, who is a senior citizen, has been made to run from one Consumer Forum to another for good 12 years to claim that amount from the Insurance Company. This is nothing short of excessive harassment. The complainant, therefore, deserves to be duly compensated, not only for the amount of claim unjustifiably denied to him by the Insurance Company but also for the harassment that he has been made to suffer and the costs that he has had to doubtless incur.
8. Accordingly, we order that the complainant be paid by the Insurance Company (i) the amount of Rs. 58,520 (rounded off) with interest at the rate of 15 (fifteen) per cent per annum from the date of completion of three calendar months of his filing the insurance claim till the actual date of payment by the Insurance Company and (ii) Rs. 20,000/- (Rupees twenty thousand) as costs, within four weeks of the date of this order. We also note that in the period in which the insurance claim arose, the market rates of interest were high, generally well over 15 per cent per annum.
[M. B. SHAH, J]
[MRS. RAJYALAKSMI RAO]