At, Rajasthan State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Jaipur
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ASHOK PARIHAR
By, PRESIDENT & THE HONOURABLE MRS. SUNITA RANKA
For the Complainants: D.M. Mathur, Advocate. For the Respondent: S.N. Bohra, Advocate.
1. Since on same set of facts both the complaints have been filed, as per request made by the Counsel for the parties, both the complaints have been heard together and are being decided by this common order.
2.It has been alleged that in Complaint No. 14/2006 the complainant M/s. Srinath Traders deposited 2965 bags of Coriander (Dhaniya) in the respondent cold storage on 29.3.2004 and 30.3.2004 by getting proper receipt of the same. The total cost of the genes so stored has been claimed as Rs. 17,79,000 and compensation of Rs. 35,58,000 has been claimed for damages along with compensation for mental agony and other expenses. Whereas in Complaint No. 15/2006 the complainant M/s. S.R. Industries deposited 3090 bags of Coriander (Dhaniya) in the respondent cold storage on 28.3.2004 cost of which has been alleged to be Rs. 18,54,000 and claim for Rs. 37,08,000 has been made in the complaint along with compensation for mental agony and other expenses.
3.It has further been alleged that a fire broke out in the respondent cold storage on 19.2.2005 and the entire cold storage was gutted including the bags stored by the above complainants. As per report of the police and the fire brigade the cause of the fire has been presumed to be short circuit.
4.Both the complaints had been dismissed by the State Commission on 28.8.2009 mainly on the ground of matter being of civil nature as such the State Commission under the Consumer Protection Act has no jurisdiction. However, the Hon’ble National Commission remanded the matters backvide order dated 30.7.2010 with the directions to decide the complaints on merits.
5.Mr. D.M. Mathur, learned Counsel for the complainants submitted that keeping the bags in cold storage has not been disputed so far. However, no precaution whatsoever has been taken by the respondent for taking necessary steps in case of fire and further there is nothing on record to show that what immediate steps had been taken by the respondent to check the fire in the present case. Mr. S.N. Bohra, learned Counsel for the respondent on the other hand raised certain preliminary objections to the extent that no consideration was paid by the complainants while storing the genes in the respondent cold storage and further as per terms and conditions as clearly mentioned in the receipt given to the complainants, the respondent cold storage was not liable to pay any compensation in case of any fire and other exigencies as mentioned in the receipt.
6.Having considered the submissions made by the learned Counsel for the parties, we have carefully gone through the entire material on record.
7.The facts as stated above have not been disputed so far. A bare reading of the receipt would show that bags of Coriander (Dhaniya) were kept in the respondent cold storage with the storage charges of Rs. 5 per bag per month. It has further been mentioned in the receipt that the articles kept in the cold storage have to be removed by the owner by 15th October every year and in case the articles are not removed then the owner of the cold storage has a right to sell the articles and recover his amount of rent. In view of clear conditions as referred above the objection in regard to payment of consideration has no relevance at all because only after payment of rent the bags can be remove by the owner. However, so far as other consideration in regard to damages due to fire is concerned, it has clearly been mentioned in the relevant clause itself that the owner of the cold storage shall try his best to keep the articles in the cold storage in good condition. In the present case the respondent has not submitted anything on record and even in their affidavit that the cold storage had been maintained in good condition and proper precautions/arrangements have also been made to face any casuality. Further it has not been explained as to what immediate steps were taken by the respondents when the fire broke out on 19.2.2005. Even if the plea of fire been taken place due to short circuit is accepted then also the employees or guard of the cold storage could have taken immediate action with some fire fighting machines to check the fire.
8.The respondent is custodion of the articles kept in their cold storage and it is their duty to keep the articles in good condition. As per record goods worth crores of rupees had been kept in the cold storage at the relevant time. Various parties having some good faith in the owners of the cold storage keep their goods there on payment of rent which is also not a small amount. Thus, it is the duty of the owners of the cold storage to regularly maintain the cold storage in good condition by taking all precautions for safety and security of goods kept in their custody. However, in the present case there is nothing on record to show that while taking precautions the respondent had put proper functional fire fighting equipments which could be immediately used in case of emergency. There is also nothing on record to show that who was on duty at the time of fire taking place having used any of the fire fighting equipments to douse/extinguish the fire.
9.It is not a case where fire broke out due to some natural calamity or mischief of some rioters. In absence of any expert report only some presumption has been taken that fire broke out due to short circuit meaning thereby that proper electric wiring had not done or even maintained in such a big cold storage. It is also not a case that any inflammatory goods had also been kept in the cold storage resulting in fire spreading immediately in the whole godown. However, as per pleading available on record, no urgent immediate steps were taken by anybody present on the spot to check the fire. Thus, respondent cannot riggle out from the responsibility to pay damages merely relying on the condition that in case of fire the owner of the cold storage is not liable to pay compensation. In the present case even such condition is unfair trade practice when huge amount is charged as rent. On the face of it there appears to be a clear case of deficiency in service on the part of the respondent. In view of the above circumstances the condition as mentioned in the receipt and heavily relied by the learned Counsel for the respondent is of no relevance.
10.So far as payment of compensation is concerned, the commodity kept in the respondent cold storage is perishable item and even the prices of such genes keep on fluctuating. In Complaint No. 14/2006 the price of the bags has been alleged to be Rs. 17,79,000 as per the bills submitted by the complainant whereas in Complaint No. 15/2006 the price of the bags h
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as been mentioned as Rs. 18,54,000 the bills of the same have also been submitted. The bills so submitted by the complainants have not been disputed as forged or fabricated. 11.Having considered the entire facts and circumstances and also in the interest of justice, we deem it proper to allow a claim of Rs. 10 lakh in Complaint No. 14/2006 and Rs. 11 lakh in Complaint No. 15/2006 with interest @ 9%w.e.f. August 2006. Both the complainants shall also be entitled for compensation of Rs. 50,000 each for mental agony and other expenses. The entire respective amount as ordered above be paid by the respondent to the complainants within thirty days. Both the complaints are disposed of accordingly. Complaints disposed of.