October 1, 2022

Westside People

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A lawyer who won a 22-year legal battle… for 30 cents

An Indian lawyer won a 22-year legal battle against a state-owned railway company for overcharging by 20 rupees a ticket, saying on Friday that he had fought for the truth to prevail.

In 1999, Tunkanath Chaturvedi bought a ticket to travel 300 km from his hometown of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh (north) to Moradabad on Christmas Day.

But the clerk at the counter charged the lawyer 90 rupees (1.45 Canadian dollars) instead of 70 rupees (1.13 Canadian dollars).

With all his claims for repayment rejected, Mr Chaturvedi appealed to the Mathura consumer court, which this month ordered the railway company to pay him 15,000 rupees ($241) in compensation plus interest (12% per annum).

“It is not about money but about my rights. As a citizen, I have the right to question the arbitrary and corrupt practices of the government or its mechanisms,” said Mr. Chaturvedi, AFP. told the tribunal.

The case reflects the chronic stagnation of the Indian judiciary, which has around 50 million cases before its courts.

“I was frustrated by the court delays, but as a lawyer I was determined to fight till the end,” he said.

But according to him, his success cost him dearly. He says he had to fight hard to get justice across the 120 hearings the case required over 22 years, presided over by five different judges.

He also says he had to pay 20,000 rupees ($321) in administrative and legal costs, not to mention the time and energy spent seeking justice.

Last year, the railway company had argued that the consumer court was not competent to hear its case. He argued that the Supreme Court decision went in his direction.

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He faced adversity from his family and friends who tried to dissuade him from continuing his battle for such a “small amount”.

But Mr. Chaturvedi refused to surrender, knowing that he was on the side of truth and sure to win the case, he said.

“As a lawyer, it is my duty to fight for my rights,” he stressed, adding, “The most important thing is to win the truth.”