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goods damaged in transit = compensation = consumer foram=”……Any civilized system of law is bound to provide remedies for cases of what has been called unjust enrichment or unjust benefit, that is, to prevent a man from retaining the money of, or some benefit derived from, another which it is against conscience that he should keep. Such remedies in English law are generically different from remedies in contract or in tort, and are now recognized to fall within a third category of the common law which has been called quasi-contract or restitution.”

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English: Gwalior City Deutsch: Gwalior Stadt

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Reportable
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3546 OF 2006
M/s Nagpur Golden Transport

Company (Regd.) … Appellant
Versus
M/s Nath Traders & Ors. …

Respondents

J U D G M E N T
A. K. PATNAIK, J.

This is an appeal by way of special leave under Article 136
of the Constitution against the order dated 18.02.2003 of the
National Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission in
Revision Petition No.371 of 2000.
2. The facts very briefly are that the respondent No.3 booked a
consignment of monoblock pumps with the appellant for
transportation from Coimbatore to respondents No.1 and 2 at
Gwalior in March, 1997. While the appellant was transporting
the consignment in a truck, there was an accident and the
monoblock pumps were damaged. The respondents No.1 and
2
2, therefore, did not take delivery of the 198 damaged
monoblock pumps at Gwalior. In the circumstances, the
appellant returned the 198 damaged monoblock pumps to the
respondent No.3.
3. The respondents No.1 and 2 then filed Complaint No.101 of
1998 before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Gwalior,
and their case in the complaint was that they had paid the
price of the consignment to respondent No.3 and were entitled
to Rs.3,61,131/- towards the price of the monoblock pumps
and damages of Rs.70,000/-, loss of profit Rs.14,000/- as well
as cost of Rs.5,000/- and interest @ 18% per annum on the
amount claimed by them. The appellant resisted the claim
contending that the claim was not maintainable under the
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (for short `the Act’). The
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, in its order
dated 27.01.1999, held that the appellant as a common carrier
was the insurer of the goods in transit and if the goods have
been damaged, the appellant was liable to respondents No.1
and 2 for negligence. The District Consumer Disputes Forum,
therefore, awarded a sum of Rs.3,60,131/- along with interest
@ 18% per annum from 01.04.1997 till the date of payment
and Rs.500/- as counsel fee and further sum of Rs.500/- as
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cost of the case.
4. Aggrieved, the appellant filed appeal No.202 of 1999 before
the Madhya Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Redressal
Commission, Bhopal, and the State Consumer Disputes
Redressal Commission in its order dated 07.10.1999 held that
there was no legal infirmity in the order of the District
Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Gwalior, awarding the
sum of Rs.3,60,131/- but took the view that levy of interest @
18% per annum was penal and instead directed the appellant
to pay interest @ 12% per annum on the amount of
Rs.3,60,131/- from the date of filing of the complaint
(02.03.1998) till the date of payment. The appellant filed a
revision but by the impugned order dated 18.02.2003 the
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission dismissed
the revision.
5. On 10.07.2003, this Court took note of the fact that the
amount awarded in favour of the respondents No.1 and 2 by
the District Consumer Disputes Redresal Forum had been
deposited and the counsel for the appellant had no objection to
the amount to be paid to respondents No.1 and 2. This Court
in its order dated 10.07.2003 issued notice limited to the
question of law raised before the Court. In the order dated
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10.07.2003, however, this Court appears to have recorded a
different question of law and hence the appellant has filed an
application I.A. No.2 of 2003 for clarification of the aforesaid
order dated 10.07.2003. On reading the application I.A. No.2
of 2003, we find that the question of law raised was whether
the appellant was entitled to receive 198 monoblock pumps
from respondent No.3 when he is held to be liable to pay the
price of the monoblock pumps to respondents No.1 and 2. We,
accordingly, correct the order dated 10.07.2003 as prayed by
the appellant in the application for clarification in I.A. No.2 of
2003.
6. At the hearing of the appeal, learned counsel for the
appellant submitted that the District Consumer Disputes
Redressal Forum should have directed the respondent No.3 to
return the 198 monoblock pumps to the appellant when the
appellant has been held liable for the price of the monoblock
pumps to the respondents No.1 and 2, who had paid for the
same to respondent No.3. He submitted that the appellant
cannot be held liable to pay the price of the monoblock pumps
to respondents No.1 and 2 and at the same time not entitled to
the return of the 198 monoblock pumps from respondent No.3.
7. Learned counsel for respondent No.3 relied on the counter
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affidavit filed on behalf of the respondent No.3 in this Court in
which it is stated that the 198 damaged monoblock pumps had
no value and the same have been kept in the godown of the
respondent No.3 under the watch and ward of extra staff
engaged by the respondent No.3 and that due to delay the
monoblock pumps have become useless and have no value at
all.
8. We have considered the submissions of learned counsel for
the appellant and the respondent No.3 and we are of the
considered opinion that if the District Consumer Disputes
Redressal Forum directed the appellant to pay Rs.3,60,131/- to
respondents No.1 and 2 and this sum of Rs. Rs.3,60,131/-
covered the price of the monoblock pumps and this price of the
monoblock pumps had also received by respondent No.3 from
the respondents No.1 and 2, the appellant was entitled to the
return of the damaged 198 monoblock pumps from respondent
No.1. We are also of the view that in case the respondent No.3
has disposed of the 198 monoblock pumps in the meanwhile,
the appellant was entitled to the value of the 198 damaged
monoblock pumps realized by the respondent No.3. If the
damaged monoblock pumps are not returned by respondent
No.3 to the appellant or if the value of the damaged monoblock
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pumps realized by respondent No.3 are not paid to the
appellant, respondent No.3 would stand unjustly enriched. To
quote Lord Wright in Fibrosa Spolka Akcyjna v. Fairbairn
Lawson Combe Barbour Ltd. [(1942) 2 ALL ER 122 (HL)]:
“……Any civilized system of law is bound to provide

remedies for cases of what has been called unjust

enrichment or unjust benefit, that is, to prevent a man

from retaining the money of, or some benefit derived

from, another which it is against conscience that he

should keep. Such remedies in English law are

generically different from remedies in contract or in

tort, and are now recognized to fall within a third

category of the common law which has been called

quasi-contract or restitution.”
We are also of the considered opinion that the respondent No.3
was not entitled to any charges towards watch and ward etc. as
respondent No.3 should not have retained the damaged
monoblock pumps having received the full price of the pumps.
9. We, therefore, remand the matter to the District Consumer
Disputes Redressal Forum, Gwalior, with the direction to issue
notice to the parties and after taking evidence, if necessary,
order the return of the 198 damaged monoblock pumps by
respondent No.3 to the appellant and if the 198 damaged
monoblock pumps are not available with respondent No.3, to
find out the value of the 198 damaged monoblock pumps
realized by the respondent No.3 and direct the respondent No.3
to pay the said value to the appellant. The appeal is allowed to
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the extent indicated above. No costs.

………………………..J.

(P. Sathasivam)
………………………..J.

(A. K. Patnaik)

New Delhi,

December 07, 2011.

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