Indira Vikas Patras (‘IVP’, for short) – Once last or defaced beyond identification can not be replaced

Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
Arising out of SLP(C) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019
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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS.1894-1895 OF 2020
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019)
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF POST OFFICE,
BOLANGIR DIVISION, BOLANGIR, ODISHA …Appellant
VERSUS
JAMBU KUMAR JAIN …Respondent
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NOS.1896-1897 OF 2020
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.16166-16167 of 2019)
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF POST OFFICE,
BOLANGIR DIVISION, BOLANGIR, ODISHA …Appellant
VERSUS
CHHAGAN LAL JAIN …Respondent
J U D G M E N T
UDAY UMESH LALIT, J.
CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 1894-1895 OF 2020
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019)

  1. Leave granted.
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
    Arising out of SLP(C) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019
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  2. These appeals arise out of the final judgment and order dated
    11.09.2018 passed by the National Commission1
    in Revision Petition No.2116
    of 2018 and order dated 11.10.2018 in Review Application No.355 of 2018
    preferred in the aforesaid revision petition.
  3. Complaint, being CDC No.43 of 2015 was filed by the respondent
    herein before the District Forum2
    contending inter alia that 88 Indira Vikas
    Patras (‘IVP’, for short) of the denomination of Rs.5000/- each, purchased by
    the father of the complainant sometime during the period 1996 to 1998, were
    lost in the month of June 2001. A police complaint was lodged on 25.06.2001
    alleging theft of those IVPs and thereafter by intimation dated 14.07.2001 a
    request was made to the Superintendent of Post Offices, Bolangir to stop
    payment of any amount upon maturity of the IVPs without proper verification
    of the holder. It was further submitted that despite demands made by the
    complainant, the value of the lost IVPs was not being made over by the Post
    Office to him and as such, there was deficiency in service on part of the Post
    Office. With the aforesaid allegations, the following principal reliefs were
    claimed in the complaint:
    “(i) The O.P. be directed to pay the maturity value of 88
    numbers of IVP of Rs.5,000/- each denomination =
    Rs.8,80,000/- and due interest till final payment is
    1 National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi
    2 District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bolangir, Odisha
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    made,
    (ii) A sum of Rs.1,00,000/- as claimed as compensation
    for deficiency in service and loss caused to the
    complaint and Rs.10,000/- is claimed towards the cost
    of litigation”
  4. In its reply, the appellant submitted that in terms of Indira Vikas Patra
    Rules, 1986, (‘the Rules’, for short), no formal application was necessary to
    purchase the IVPs and in case the IVPs were purchased by cash, the identity
    of the purchaser would not be recorded by the Post Office in any document
    nor any receipt would be issued at the time of issuance of the IVPs, that all
    the IVPs were bearer instruments like currency notes; that there was no proof
    or evidence that any consideration was paid by the complainant; and that the
    complainant could not be termed as a “consumer” within the meaning of the
    Act3
    . It was further submitted that the Rules were binding on the Department
    and since it had acted purely in terms of the Rules, there was no deficiency on
    its part.
  5. The aforesaid complaint was allowed by the District forum vide its
    order dated 30.03.2016 and it was directed as under:
    “We hereby direct the O.P. to release payment of the
    maturity value of 88 nos. of IVPs bearing No.63C
    113623 to 113666 and 3515 to 3558 and 113667 to
    113710 and 3559 to 3602 respectively amounting to
    Rs.8,80,000/- (Rupees Eight Lakh Eighty thousand)
    only, to the petitioner after furnishment of an
    indemnity bond from the petitioner within thirty-five
    3The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
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    Arising out of SLP(C) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019
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    days of this order. Non compliance will attract a
    penalty of Rs.20 per day till realization.”
  6. The appellant being aggrieved filed Appeal No.356 of 2016 before the
    State Commission4
    , which was dismissed by the State Commission on the
    ground of non-prosecution. The matter was carried further by filing Revision
    Petition No.2116 of 2018 before the National Commission.
  7. The submissions advanced on behalf of the appellant were recorded as
    under:
    “The Learned Counsel for the Petitioner contended that since
    inception the Respondent is not a Consumer and no deficiency in
    service has been committed on the part of the Petitioner and the
    Complaint of the Respondent is not maintainable. As per Rule 7(2)
    and 10 of the IVP Rules, 1986, the Respondent is not entitled to any
    claim and hence his claim has been rejected by the Department.”
    However, the view taken by the District Forum was accepted by the
    National Commission. It was observed in order dated 11.09.2018:
    “The Respondent’s Father had purchased 88 IVPs for a total
    amount of Rs.8.8 lakhs. The same were lost and a Police
    Complaint was filed. The claim of the Respondent on maturity
    was rejected. Several years have elapsed and the amount
    deposited still lies with the Postal Department. So far there
    appears no other claimant for the amount. It certainly cannot be
    the case of the Petitioner to appropriate the entire amount
    forever, since the lost documents has not been submitted to them.
    It is but fair and reasonable that after proper verification and
    taking due precautions like idemnity bond etc., the Department
    after securing its interests, should at least pay the maturity value
    to the Respondent, after having not succeeded in the several
    rounds of litigation. This Commission way back in the year
    4 State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Cuttak, Odisha
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    2002, in a matter of similar nature has elaborately discussed the
    issues and directed the department to release the money, as
    sufficient time had elapsed since the date of maturity. Therefore,
    it clearly appears that there is no error in the order passed by the
    District Forum.”
  8. Thereafter, Review Application No.355 of 2018 was preferred by the
    appellant. However, said Review Application was also dismissed by the
    National Commission vide order dated 11.10.2018.
  9. The aforesaid two orders passed by the National Commission are
    presently under appeal before us. We have heard Mr. R. Balasubramanian,
    learned Senior Advocate for the appellant and Mr. S.B. Upadhyay, learned
    Senior Advocate for the respondent. It was submitted by Mr. Upadhyay that
    in the present matter, the value in respect of the IVPs in question had not been
    claimed by any other person and in any case the respondent was willing to
    furnish any indemnity bond that in case any claim were to surface, he would
    indemnify the Department.
  10. Before we consider the matter, we must set-out the relevant Rules.
    The Rules were issued vide Ministry of Finance (DEA) Notification
    No.G.S.R. 1183(E) dated 05.11.1986. Rules 5, 6 and 7 of the Rules, as
    amended from time to time, are as under:
    “5 Procedure for purchase of certificates: (1) A certificate
    may be purchased at a Post Office on payment of any one of the
    following modes, namely:
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
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    (i) by cash; or
    (ii) by locally executed cheque, pay order or demand draft
    drawn in favour of the Postmaster; or
    (iii) by presenting a duly signed withdrawal form or cheque with
    the Pass Book for withdrawal from Post Office Savings Account
    standing in the credit of the purchaser at the same Post Office.
  11. No formal application is necessary for purchase of a
    certificate.
  12. Issue of Certificate: (1) On payment being made by cash, a
    certificate shall be issued immediately and date of such
    certificate shall be the date of payment.
    (2) Where payment for purchase of a certificate is made by
    locally executed cheque, pay order or demand draft, the
    certificate shall not be issued before the proceeds of the cheque,
    pay order or demand draft, as the case may be, are realised and
    the date of such certificate shall be the date of encashment of the
    cheque, pay order or demand draft, as the case may be.
    (3) If, for any reason, a certificate cannot be issued immediately,
    a provisional receipt shall be given to the purchaser which may
    later be exchanged for a certificate and the date of such
    certificate shall be as specified in sub-rule (1) or sub-rule (2), as
    the case may be.
    (4) A certificate issued under this rule is transferable.
  13. Replacement of certificate: (1) If a certificate is mutilated or
    defaced, the bearer is entitled for replacement form the Post
    Office of issue on payment of fee of rupee one.
    (2) A certificate lost, stolen, mutilated, defaced or destroyed
    beyond recognition, will not be replaced by any Post Office.”
  14. In terms of Rule 5 of the Rules, IVPs could be purchased at any Post
    Office after payment in cash or by a Cheque/Pay Order or Demand Draft and
    no formal application was necessary for such purchase. As against payment
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
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    made in Cash, the IVPs would be delivered immediately while in respect of
    payments made either through Cheque or Pay Order or Demand Draft, the
    same would be issued only after the encashment of any of those instruments.
    In terms of Rule 6(4), IVPs were transferable. According to Rule 7(1), if the
    Certificate was mutilated or defaced, the bearer would be entitled to have it
    replaced on payment of fee of rupee one but if the certificate was lost or
    stolen or mutilated or defaced or destroyed beyond recognition, in terms of
    Rule 7(2) it would not be replaced by any Post Office.
  15. It is not in dispute that the IVPs in the present matter were purchased
    through cash. At no stage, the identity of the purchaser was thus disclosed or
    registered with the Department. In a situation, where the IVPs were
    purchased either through Cheque of Pay Order or Demand Draft, there would
    still be a possibility, through link evidence, to establish the identity of the
    purchaser but in case of a purchase through the modality of cash, there would
    be nothing on record which could establish the identity of the purchaser.
    It may be that there are no claims in respect of the IVPs in question but
    that does not mean that any person can claim maturity sum in respect of such
    IVPs and offer an indemnity.
  16. The matter has to be considered purely from the perspective of the
    governing Rules. If in case the IVPs are lost/stolen or mutilated or defaced
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
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    beyond recognition, the Rules are clear that they shall not be replaced by the
    Post Office. In the face of such statutory provision, the refusal on the part of
    the Department to entertain any request for maturity sum was absolutely right
    and justified. It can never be said that there was deficiency on the part of the
    Department in rendering any service expected of them.
    If the Department had refused to encash the Certificates upon
    presentation or even after encashment had refused to make the payment or
    had made short payment, there could still be a grievance about deficiency in
    service but if the Certificates themselves are lost and the identity of the initial
    holder could never be established through the record, the Department was
    well within its rights not to accept the prayer for return of the maturity sum.
  17. In Central Government of India and others vs. Krishnaji Parvetesh
    Kulkarni5
    , similar prayer made through a writ petition, was rejected by this
    Court with following observations:-
    “An IVP is akin to an ordinary currency note. It bears no name
    of the holder. Just as a lost currency note cannot be replaced,
    similarly the question of replacing a lost IVP does not arise. Rule
    7(2) makes the position clear that a certificate lost, stolen,
    mutilated, defaced or destroyed beyond recognition will not be
    replaced by any post office. Similar is the position as regards the
    certificate which is either lost or stolen. Undisputedly there was
    no challenge to the legality of the rule 7(2). In the absence of a
    challenge to the provision, any direction should not really have
    been given. It is fundamental that no direction which is contrary
    to law can be given.”
    5
    (2006) 4 SCC 275
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
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  18. In our view, the District Forum and the National Commission
    completely erred in accepting the claim. We, therefore, allow these appeals,
    set-aside the view taken by the National Commission and dismiss the original
    complaint. No costs.
    CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 1896-1897 OF 2020
    (Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.16166-16167 of 2019)
  19. Leave granted.
  20. These appeals arise out of the final judgment and order dated
    11.09.2018 passed by the National Commission in Revision Petition No.2117
    of 2018 and order dated 11.10.2018 in Review Application No.356 of 2018
    preferred in the aforesaid revision petition.
  21. In this case, 160 IVPs of the denomination of Rs.5000/- each, were
    stated to have been lost and the claimant in this case and the claimant in the
    earlier matter are members of the same family. Similar relief was granted by
    the District Forum and the National Commission, which orders are presently
    under appeal before us.
  22. It is somewhat strange that only the IVPs were lost in both the cases
    by the family and no other instrument was lost. Be that as it may, for the
    reasons recorded in Civil Appeal arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.16164-16165
    Civil Appeal Nos. 1894-1895 of 2020
    Arising out of SLP(C) Nos.16164-16165 of 2019
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    of 2019, these appeals also deserve to be allowed.
  23. We, therefore, allow these appeals, set-aside the view taken by the
    National Commission and dismiss the original complaint. No costs.
    …………………………………J.
    [UDAY UMESH LALIT]
    ..……………………………….J.
    [VINEET SARAN]
    NEW DELHI;
    MARCH 02, 2020.