Laws laid down by supreme court




‘We deem it appropriate to observe that since the Government of the day is keen to repeal all antiquated legislation , a legacy of Colonial Era, it’s high time to have a re-look at Indian Postal Act 1898,in particular on section 6 therein ,in order to infuse accountability ,competitiveness and efficient governance.’

This was the observations made by the National Commission in a case where entry letter for examination does not reach to a candidate resulting him to miss the exam but none could be held liable because willful act or default or fraud on the part of post office employees could not be proved and employees are protected under section 6 of Indian postal act reads as hereunder-

“the Government shall not incur any liability by reasons of loss, misdelivery or delay or damage to and postal article in course of transmission by post, except in so far as such liability may in express terms be under taken by the central government as herein after provided and no officer of the post office shall incur any liability by reason of any such loss, misdelivery, delay or damage, unless he caused the same fraudulently or by his willful act or default..”  

In the case in hand, UPSC at New Delhi dispatched to Arun Geo Thomas examination hall ticket for taking examination for admission to National Defence Academy and Naval Defence Academy .The entrance exam was to be held on 18.4.2010 but complainant received hall ticket only on 11.5.2010 with the result he could not take the exam .The letter was dispatched on 29.3.2010 by UPSC Delhi as per record. But when Arun approached consumer forum and consumer commission, State commission as well as National Commission held that onus to prove fraud or willful act or default on the part of postal department lies on the person who alleges and under the circumstances when it could not be proved with cogent evidence, postal department enjoys the immunity for any liability in view of section 6 of the Indian Postal Act 1898.

Commission while pronouncing the order further stated –

“…although Indian Postal Act is an antiquated piece of legislation, dating back to 1898, but as it stands today in 21st century still grants immunity to the postal department”.

In yet another case of the similar nature before the National Commission in the matter of Senior Superintendent of Post office Udupi Division v/s Manipal University & Others ,National Commission again had to face the argument of the postal department that they enjoy protection under section 6 of the act .In this case,Mnipal University sent a letter to The bank dispatched  letter 22.6.2006 for invoking bank guarantee in their favour which was valid till 27.6.2006  but letter reached on 30.6.2006 and consequently they lost Rs 5,50,000/-as the bank guaranty by then stood withdrawn.University extended the argument that inordinate delay of eight days in delivery of its letter to the bank was a willful default on the part of the postal department and therefore ,they cannot escape their liability to pay compensation for the loss suffered by the University on account of serious lapses by taking shelter under section 6 of the act.

National commission then analyzed the section which is divided into two parts. As held by the national commission,”The first part provides for complete immunity to the govt., except in express terms, as undertaken by the govt, Under second part,an individual can be held liable only when loss,misdelivery,delay or damage has been caused fraudulently or by the willful act or default on the part of such an employee. ..Onus lies to prove the allegation on the person who alleges it to be so. “

 Postal department could not be held liable because of immunity the employees enjoy under the Indian Postal Act.  National Commion was in a helpless position and could not help the consumers.

It is pertinent to mention here that there is already number of cases decided in favour of postal department based on this theory. Supreme Court in Dr Jamini Devi V/s Postmaster Imphal had elaborately explained the provisions of Indian Postal Act that money paid by the citizen of India towards postal charges is not consideration and by paying this token money, postal department is not expected to deliver a letter from Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir under a contract. This statuary function Government performs and employee so working is protected under section 6 of Postal Act. They are not governed under law of torts or law of contract .Similar was the view taken by This National commission in other number of cases following the above judgment.

And now in the passage of time things are changing. National Commission feels the need to re-look at the things and copies of the above said judgments are directed to be sent to the Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, Shastri Bhawan New Delhi for information and appropriate action as may be deemed fit and proper.




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