The Carriers Act, 1865 and the railways Act, 1890 apply to carriage of goods by land. Carriers act applies only to common carriers as distinguished from private carriers.
A common carrier may be any individual, firm or company, which transports goods as regular business for money, over land or inland waterways. A private carrier, carries his own goods and may occasionally carry goods for selected persons. He is not covered by the Carriers Act but by the Indian Contract Act.
Rights, Duties and Liabilities of a Common carrier
- To receive and carry goods from all corners, indiscriminately
- To carry the goods safely
- To carry by his customary route without deviating from it unnecessarily
- To obey instructions of the consignor
To deliver the goods within the agreed time at the stipulated place.
The common carrier has the right to refuse carriage of goods in the following circumstances:
- If he has insufficient or no room in his carrier
- If the goods are of a type other than what he professes to carry
- If the goods are not required to be carried by his customary route or to his usual destination.
- If the goods are dangerous to carry or expose him to risk.
- If the goods to be carried are not offered at a reasonable time and in reasonable manner.
- If the consignor is not prepared to pay reasonable amount in advance.
A common carrier is an insurer of goods, but there are certain exceptions to this rule.
- He is not liable for any loss or damage to goods caused by an act of God or natural calamity, like the vehicle being struck by lightening.
- He has no liability in case of injury caused by "enemies of the state.
E.g. foreign with whom the country may be at war.
- He cannot be held responsible for loss due to any inherent vice or natural deterioration of goods in transit. For e.g. evaporation of liquids, deterioration of fruit etc.
He is not liable for any loss due to neglect on the part of consignee. Such as defective packing of goods.
SCHEDULED AND NON SCHEDULED GOODS
Goods are classified into scheduled and non-scheduled categories. Goods of high value are termed as scheduled goods. For e.g. gold coins, precious stones, currency notes, work of art, articles of ivory or sandalwood. etc. The carrier can charge extra for carrying such costly articles provided their value exceeds Rs. 100 and will be liable for loss or damage only if the value and description of goods has been disclosed by the consignor in advance or if the loss is due to a criminal act of the carrier, his agents or servants. Other types of goods are called non-scheduled goods.
CARRIAGE OF DANGEROUS GOODS
It is the duty of the consignor to warn the carrier when dangerous goods such as explosives, acids or poisons are booked for carriage. In the absence of such warning, the consignor will be responsible for any probable adverse consequences.
The Indian Railways Act, 1890 lays down the duties and liabilities of the railway administration as a career of goods. These are similar to the duties and liabilities of common careers.
Railways are liable for loss, destruction or non-delivery of goods arising from any cause except the acts of God, war or public enemies, fire, explosion or any unforeseen risk, arrest, restraint or seizure under legal process, restrictions imposed by the Central or State Govts, natural deterioration or wastage due to inherent defect, vice or quality of goods; latent defects, and any act of omission or negligence on the part of consignor or his agents.
WHEN DOES THE LIABILITY TERMINATE?
Transit of goods by the railways terminates on the arrival of the goods at the destination and the expiry of free days allowed for unloading of consignment from the railway wagon, without payment of demurrage. The liability of the railways as a carrier terminates with the termination of transit. However, for the period of 7 days after the termination of transit, the railway administration continues to be responsible as a bailee for loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery of goods, except where the consignment is at owner's risk rate. After the expiry of 7 days the railways are not responsible.