The complainant / petitioner purchased goods from a company based in London. The consignment was dispatched from Zambia to Mumbai and was got insured by the supplier, with Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited. When the goods reached the place of the complainant / petitioner in Rewari, the material was found short in quantity. As per the insurance certificate, the claim against the insurer with Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited could be made to its Claim Settling Agents namely Johnson & Higgins Ltd., London or to their appointed representative, TATA Tea Limited. On a request made to Tata Tea Ltd., a surveyor was appointed who confirmed the shortage of goods. A claim was also lodged with the respondent M/s. Tata Tea Limited, but, was not paid. Being aggrieved the complainant / petitioner approached the concerned District Forum by way of a consumer complainant, impleading the carrier M/s. Satya Priya Roadlines Pvt. Ltd. and M/s. Tata Tea Limited as the opposite parties in the complaint.
2. In its reply, filed before the District Forum, the Respondent No.2 Tata Tea Limited inter-alia claimed that there was no privity of contract between them and the complainant, they being only the survey agents deputed to carry out the survey of the loss in respect of the claim under the insurance policy issued by with Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited.
3. Vide order dated 27.4.2012, the District Forum dismissed the complaint against Tata Tea Ltd. The complaint was allowed against Satya Priya Roadlines Pvt. Ltd.
4. Being aggrieved from the dismissal of the complaint against Tata Tea Limited, the petitioner / complainant approached the concerned State Commission by way of an appeal. The said appeal also having been dismissed, the petitioner is before this Commission by way of this revision petition.
5. The insurance certificate to the extent it is relevant, reads as under:
“Settlement. In the event of any claim arising under this Insurance request for settlement should be made to the Corporation’s Claims Settling Agents: Johnson & Higgins Ltd., Aldgate House, 33, Aldgate High Street, London, EC3-N, LAQ or to their appointed representatives:
Tata Tea Ltd.,
Standard Chartered Bank Building,
Mahatama Gandhi Road,
(P.O. Box 73), Bombay – 400 001.
6. It is thus evident that the Tata Tea Limited was the authorised representative of the insurer, only for the purpose of the lodgement of a claim arising under the contract of insurance. The claim if made out was to be paid by the insurer Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited. It is an admitted position that there is no privity of contract between the complainant and the respondent Tata Tea Limited, now known as Tata Global Beverages Ltd. The services of the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd., were never hired or availed by the complainant. Therefore, it would be difficult to say that the claim was payable not only by the insurer but also by the Tata Global Beverages Ltd.
7. Relying upon Section 230 of Indian Contract Act, the learned counsel for the complainant / petitioner submitted that Tata Tea Ltd., being the agent of a Merchant Resident Abroad, the complaint was maintainable against the said company, as well.
8. Section 230 of the Indian Contract Act reads as under:
“230. Agent cannot personally enforce, nor be bound by, contracts on behalf of principal – In the absence of any contract to that effect an agent cannot personally enforce contracts entered into by him on behalf of his principal, nor is he personally bound by them.
Presumption of contract to contrary – Such a contract shall be presumed to exit in the following cases:
1. Where the contract is made by an agent for the sale or purchase of goods for a merchant resident abroad;
2. Where the agent does not disclose the name of his principal;
3. Where the principal, though disclosed, cannot be sued.”
9. It would thus be seen that the aforesaid provision applies only to a contract of sale of goods. In the present case, no goods were purchased by the complainant from Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited. The contract of insurance between the complainant and Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited., was a contract of rendering services and not a contract for sale of goods. Therefore, strictly speaking, the provisions of Section 230 of the Indian Contract Act would not apply to such a transaction. In any case, the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd., in my opinion, cannot be said to be an agent of the insurer within the meaning of Section 230 of the Indian Contract Act since the contract of insurance was not made by the insurer through the said company. This is not the case of the complainant / petitioner that the insurance cover was obtained by the overseas seller through the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd. Therefore, Section 230 of the Indian Contract Act would not apply as far as the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd., is concerned. It is evident from the insurance certificate itself that the said company had been appointed as the authorized representative of the insurer only for the purpose of lodgement of a claim against the insurer. Since the contract of the insurance was not entered into through the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd., the liability to reimburse the complainant for the loss suffered by it rested with the insurer Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited., and cannot be extended to the respondent.
10. The learned counsel for the petitioner referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Cochin Frozen Food Exports (P) Ltd. Vs. Vanchinad Agencies & Ors. (2004) 13 SCC 434, where the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that a suit against the agent of a Foreign Principal could be instituted in India even if the name of the Foreign Principal had been disclosed. There is no quarrel with the legal proposition enunciated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, but, on facts, the respondent Tata Global Beverages Ltd., cannot be said to be an agent of the insurer, the insurance policy having not been taken through the said respondent.
11. The le
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arned counsel for the petitioner has also placed on record the decision of the Bombay High Court in Board of Trustees of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust Vs. Continental Float Glass Ltd. & Ors. 2009 SCC Online Bom 573, and the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in United India Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd. (2007) 7 SCC 101. However, neither of these judgements are of any avail to the petitioner, considering that the respondent was not an agent of the insurer within the meaning of Section 230 of the Indian Contract Act. 12. For the reasons stated hereinabove, I find no merit in the revision petition, which is accordingly dismissed, with no order as to costs.