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India man wins 22-year court battle against railways over 21 pence

By :BBC
Published : Aug 12, 2022 12:25:00 AM | Oddity

An Indian man has won a case related to an overpriced railway ticket after almost 22 years.

Tungnath Chaturvedi, a lawyer, was charged 20 rupees ($0.25; £0.21) extra for two tickets he had bought in 1999.

The incident occurred at Mathura cantonment railway station in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

A consumer court last week ruled in Mr Chaturvedi's favour and asked the railways to refund the amount with interest.

"I have attended more than 100 hearings in connection with this case," Mr Chaturvedi, 66, told the BBC. "But you can't put a price on the energy and time I've lost fighting this case."

Consumer courts in India specifically deal with grievances related with services. But they are known to be overburdened by cases and sometimes it can take years for even simple cases to be solved.

Mr Chaturvedi, who lives in Uttar Pradesh, was travelling from Mathura to Moradabad when a ticket-booking clerk overcharged him for the two tickets he had bought.

The tickets cost 35 rupees each, but when he gave 100 rupees, the clerk returned 10 rupees, charging 90 rupees for the tickets instead of 70.

He told the clerk he had overcharged him, but Mr Chaturvedi didn't get any refund at the time.

So, he decided to file a case against North East Railway (Gorakhpur) - a section of the Indian Railways - and the booking clerk in a consumer court in Mathura.

He said it took him years because of the slow pace at which judiciary works in India.

"The railways also tried to dismiss the case, saying complaints against the railways should be addressed to a railway tribunal and not a consumer court," said Mr Chaturvedi. A railway claims tribunal is a quasi-judicial body set up to address claims related to train travel in India.

"But we used a 2021 Supreme Court ruling to prove that the matter could be heard in a consumer court," Mr Chaturvedi said. At other times, hearings would get delayed because judges were on vacation or condolence leave, he added.

After the long fight, the judgement ordered the railways to pay him a fine of 15,000 rupees ($188; £154). The court also directed the railways to refund him the 20 rupees at 12% interest per year, from 1999 to 2022. The court also ordered that if the amount was not paid in the specified time of 30 days, the interest rate would be revised to 15%.

Mr Chaturvedi said the compensation he got was paltry and it doesn't make up for the mental anguish the case caused him. His family tried to dissuade him several times from pursuing the case, calling it a waste of time, but he kept going.

"It's not the money that matters. This was always about a fight for justice and a fight against corruption, so it was worth it," he said. "Also, since I am an advocate myself, I didn't have to pay money to a lawyer or bear the cost of travelling to the court. That can get quite expensive."

He also believes that no matter what a person's official designation is, they "can't get away with wrongdoings if people are prepared to question them about it".

He said that he believed that his case would serve as an inspiration to others that "one doesn't need to give up even when the fight looks tough".