Justice. Indian lawyer wins 22-year legal battle…for 25 cents

Patience and determination. An Indian lawyer has won a 22-year legal battle against the state-owned railway company for overcharging him with a 20-rupee ticket, saying on Friday he fought for the truth to prevail.

In 1999, Tungnath Chaturvedi had bought a ticket from his hometown of Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh (north) to go on Christmas Day to Moradabad, located 300 km away. But the employee at the counter charged the lawyer 90 rupees (1.09 euros) instead of the 70 rupees (85 cents) of the tariff.

“It was not about money but about my rights”

His repeated requests for reimbursement having all been refused, Tungnath Chaturvedi appealed to the Mathura Consumer Court which ended up, this month, ordering the railway company to pay him 15,000 rupees (182 euros) in damages and interest (12% per year).

“It was not about money but about my rights. As a citizen, I have the right to question arbitrary and corrupt practices of the state or its mechanisms,” Mr. Chaturvedi, who is representing himself, told the court.

This case reflects the chronic slowness of the Indian judicial system, with courts overloaded with some 50 million cases. “I was frustrated with the court delays, but as a lawyer I was determined to fight to the end,” he said.

120 hearings in 22 years

But according to him, his victory cost him much more. He claims to have had to fight fiercely to obtain justice throughout the 120 hearings that the case required in 22 years, presided over by five different judges. He also claims to have had to pay 20,000 rupees (244 euros) in administrative and legal costs, not to mention the time and energy spent to obtain justice.

Last year again, the railway company argued that the consumer court was not competent to judge its case. He argued a Supreme Court judgment that went in his direction. He also faced adversity from his family and friends, who tried to dissuade him from continuing his battle for such a “small sum”.

But Tungnath Chaturvedi refused to capitulate, sure of winning the case knowing he was on the side of the truth, he said. “As a lawyer, it was my duty to fight for my rights,” he stressed, “the most important thing being that the truth prevails.”

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