A lawyer who was overcharged 20 rupees ($0.25) by a railway clerk in 1999 finally receives the fruits of his labour as an Indian court order goes in his favour.
In 1999, a railway clerk charged Tungnath Chaturvedi, a lawyer, 20 rupees ($0.25) extra for two tickets. Little did he know that Chaturvedi, who sought an immediate reimbursement but was denied, would still be causing trouble after 22 years.
The location of this misconduct was the Mathura cantonment railway station in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. A disappointed Chaturvedi took the railway company to consumer court, which – finally – after 22 years, ruled that he should be refunded the 20 rupees with interest.
"I have attended more than 100 hearings in connection with this case," Chaturvedi, 66, told the BBC. "But you can't put a price on the energy and time I've lost fighting this case.”
The reason it took this long for Chaturvedi to receive a final word on his case was due to consumer courts in India being overwhelmed with the number of cases pending, and may take years to come to any conclusion.
Despite his family trying to talk him out of pursuing the case further, Chaturvedi persisted, and won, a fact that makes him both weary and proud. He thinks the award he received in the end was small and in no way compensates for the mental agony he suffered all these years.
"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."
Chaturvedi was overcharged by 20 rupees at the Mathura cantonment railway station, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. He was buying two tickets to travel from Mathura to Moradabad, also in Uttar Pradesh, which cost 35 rupees ($0.45) each.
Instead of giving him a change of 30 rupees out of a 100 rupee bill Chaturvedi presented, the clerk only returned 10 rupees ($0.12), which meant that the lawyer was charged 90 rupees ($1.13) instead of 70 ($0.87).
Noticing the mistake right away, Chaturvedi asked for a refund of 20 rupees, but was denied. This led him to file a case against North East Railway (Gorakhpur), a section of Indian Railways as per the BBC, as well as the booking clerk, in a consumer court in Mathura.
"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," Chaturvedi told the BBC.
"But we used a 2021 Supreme Court ruling to prove that the matter could be heard in a consumer court," Chaturvedi said.
In addition to the slow speed of the justice system in India, he said that his case was delayed because judges would be on vacation or on bereavement leave.
Well, long and steady won the race: Chaturvedi was awarded 15,000 rupees by the court ($188) for his mistreatment.
Moreover, the court also told the railways to refund him the 20 rupees at 12 percent interest per year, from 1999 to 2022. Chaturvedi would see the interest rate be raised to 15 percent if the railways didn’t pay him within 30 days, the court ordered.
Chaturvedi told the BBC that regardless of what a person’s official designation is, they "can't get away with wrongdoings if people are prepared to question them about it".
Hoping his case would inspire others to seek justice when they were wronged, Chaturvedi concluded "one doesn't need to give up even when the fight looks tough".