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Indian man wins 22-year court battle after railway overcharged him an extra 20 rupees (P14)

By NICK GARCIA Published Aug 12, 2022 1:15 pm

"The mill of the gods grinds exceedingly slow but grinds exceedingly fine," the old expression goes, referring to justice being inevitable though time-consuming.

An Indian man who was overcharged for the train tickets he bought in 1999 just won his court battle against the railway company after nearly 22 years.

According to BBC, lawyer Tungnath Chaturvedi, 66, was charged 20 rupees (P14; $0.25) extra at the Mathura Cantonment railway station in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Chaturvedi bought two tickets worth 35 rupees each. But when he gave 100 rupees, the clerk returned 10 rupees, charging 90 rupees for the tickets instead of 70.

He immediately asked for a refund, but ended up empty-handed.

That's when he filed a case against the railway company North East Railway, as well as the booking clerk in a local consumer court.

Consumer courts in India specifically deal with grievances in relation to services. But simple cases can take years to be resolved because of immense backlog.

That's what exactly happened to Chaturvedi, who also noted that the railways tried to dismiss his case, saying complaints should be addressed to a railway tribunal and not a consumer court.

"But we used a 2021 Supreme Court ruling to prove that the matter could be heard in a consumer court," BBC quoted Chaturvedi as saying.

Since filing the case, he attended over 100 hearings. Along the way, several hearings were delayed because the judges were absent.

"But you can't put a price on the energy and time I've lost fighting this case," Chaturvedi told BBC.

Fast forward to August 2022, Chaturvedi saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The consumer court ruled in his favor, ordering the railways to pay him a fine of 15,000 rupees (P10,400; $188).

The court also directed the railways to refund him the 20 rupees at 12% interest per year, from 1999 to 2012, in 30 days.

If this won't be fulfilled, there'd be a 15% interest rate instead.

After all that's been said and done, Chaturvedi noted that the compensation was "paltry" and doesn't make up for the mental anguish in the years that passed.

He said his family even urged him to just let it go since it's a waste of time, but he felt otherwise. He also didn't mind going against a big company or the booking clerk, saying 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."

"It's not the money that matters. This was always about a fight for justice and a fight against corruption," he told BBC.

"So, it was worth it."