Locus Standi of Consignee to sue

Locus standi of Consignee to sue.

Suit by consignor for damages from Railways —  A consignee is not necessarily the owner of the goods and merely because consignee is different, the title of goods cannot be presumed to have been passed to the consignee.

Ordinarily, it is the consignor who can sue if there is damage to the consignment, for the contract of carriage is between the consignor and the railway administration. Where the property in the goods carried has passed from the consignor to some-one-else, that other person may be able to sue.

It is true that a railway receipt is a document of title to goods covered by it, but from that alone it does not follow, where the consignor and consignee are different, that the consignee is necessarily the owner of goods and the consignor in such circumstances can never be the owner of the goods. The mere fact that the consignee is different from the consignor does not necessarily pass the title to the goods from the consignor to the consignee, and the question whether title to goods has passed to the consignee will have to be decided on other evidence. It is quite possible for the consignor to retain title in the goods himself while the consignment is booked in the name of another person.

It was contended that as an endorse to a document of title he was in any case entitled to maintain the suit. The trial court found on the evidence that it had been proved satisfactorily that Ishwara Nand was the owner of the goods. It also held that as an endorse of a document of title he was entitled to sue. These findings of the trial court on the evidence were accepted by the High Court in these words :-

“It was not contended before us that the finding arrived at by the learned court below that the plaintiff had the right to sue was wrong, nor could, in view of the overwhelming evidence, such an issue be raised. The evidence on the point has already been carefully analysed by the court below. We accept the finding and confirm it. It was also pointed out that Ishwara Nand was the endorsed consignee and in that capacity he had in any case a right to bring the suit. The correctness of this statement was not challenged before us.”

Thus there are concurrent findings of the two courts below that Ishwara Nand was the owner of the goods and that was why the railway receipt was endorsed in his favour. In these circumstances he is certainly entitled to maintain the suit. The contention that the plaintiffs in the two suits could not maintain them. must therefore be rejected.

[Source: Union of India v.  West Punjab Factories, Ltd., AIR 1966 SC 395: 1966(2) Audh LT 269: 1966(1) SCR 580]

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