In the Interest of Justice
It was enough for a sensational piece of news for the day’s newspaper. A letter was delivered twenty years after it was posted in a letterbox—that was the subject matter. People would have read it, enjoyed the humour out of it, but, surely, would have rejected it as a piece of frivolous news.
One day he had to visit the local post office in some connection. God only knew what transpired there, he began to altercate with a postal employee. As was his wont, the postmaster tried to patch up the issue then and there but to no avail. Ultimately Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra left the spot in a huff.
Miffed Mr Mohapatra was now determined to teach the post office a lesson but he was not in a hurry; he would rather wait for the opportune moment. Make no mistake, he was a lawyer and it was his daily chore to intrigue and inflict—victim could be anybody. On returning home he ferreted about the heap of old correspondence and got a postcard that was posted some twenty years ago. He was happy about his discovery; it exactly suited his design. The postmark was clear but only to the extent of the date of posting and, for some strange reason, its delivery date-stamp impression was missing. Mr Mohapatra rushed to the letterbox near his house and reposted it. Like other letters posted in that letterbox, that particular postcard was delivered to the addressee Mr Mohapatra the very next day. This time the date of delivery was clearly visible from the postmark.
‘Tut-tut, this is the example of a snail mail. Look! How it took twenty years to travel by post. Shame on the post,’ the ill-fated postcard in hand, Mr Mohapatra rushed to the office of the local newspaper.
The newspaper did its best, not different from what it usually would do with other sensational pieces of news, but Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra was not happy with it. Only a piece of critical news appearing on a small column of the day’s newspaper did not convince him that appropriate action had been taken against the post office. It should be made to pay fine—that was the minimum; and he wanted to make that happen anyhow.
So where should he go for that? Who would vindicate his stand? Well, there was the Consumer Forum, the saviour of all the harassed consumers of the land; they are quite welcome there. And when a lawyer was himself going as the complainant, it was a different story altogether. Besides, it was not an expensive affair at all; one should be prepared to spend only a rupee and a quarter. That’s all what was needed.
A postmark says the truth and nothing but the truth, always…very much like a looking glass. When it was posted and when it got actually delivered—everything can be seen with naked eyes. So, how did the poor postcard carry the truth of twenty years? Was it not a lame piece of postal article only, with no propulsion of its own, and endowed with no muscle, no locomotion?
The honourable Consumer Forum desired to know the content of the letter that allegedly suffered so much delay in delivery. It was read out to the forum from beginning to end. It was just a reminder issued to Mr Mohapatra by his debtor to repay the loan the former had borrowed from the latter. The sender of the letter had desired that Mr Mohapatra must return the amount he had defaulted by then. There were some more critical words indicating the lawyer’s doubtful integrity and stuff. Since the postcard was not delivered to him, he could not contest the aspersion of the sender on the lawyer’s integrity. In the process he remained a defaulter with his reputation so irreparably tarnished.
This was the reason of his mental agony. That was why he had come before the honourable Consumer Forum with a demand of fifty thousand rupees as compensation from the Postal Department. Honourable Consumer Forum saw the reasonableness of the complaint, sympathised with the lawyer-complainant Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra and in all fairness ordered that the post office be fined an amount of fifty thousand rupees. It further ordered that the fine so levied would first be paid to the complainant and then recovered from the salaries of the postal employees responsible for the service breach.
The officers at the higher level of the department examined the decision of the forum. The option of going to the higher formation of the consumer justice system was weighed and legal opinions sought. Were it to be decided to implement the orders of the forum, then the question would remain: how to recover the amount from the employee? The matter was so complicated and so time-worn that it would have been unfair to hold any particular postal employee responsible for the so-called service deficiency. Nobody really desired to push such an action which was patently unfair, not even as a piece of default action.
A state of indecision thus prevailed in the department, one that ultimately led to a situation of default. Neither an appeal could be filed against the decision nor was there a decision to pay the fine and forget. In time Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra the winner filed another case in the court, this time with a prayer to recover the amount from the post office. Once again the court decided in favour of the lawyer and ordered that the chairs and tables of the post office be sold and the amount recovered be defrayed to the lawyer.
Empowered by the decision of the court, one day Mr Mohapatra, accompanied by his people, went to the post office where he was once insulted. With no loss of time he took the entire load of post office furniture away.
The post office was to be closed down.
After he reported the entire episode to his senior officer, the postmaster decided to restart the functioning of the post office. But how? There was not a chair left by Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra. The postmaster had to sit on the floor but it was not possible to transact any business. People who visited the post office were shocked finding the helplessness of the postmaster. Out of their goodwill for the post office they decided to do something about this. Post office is a servant of the society, a faithful servant for generations, and nobody was willing to ignore the development where a sincere servant had been so mercilessly maltreated.
It took just half an hour for all the youth of the locality to gather in the premises of the post office. All had this thing to say: ‘The action of the lawyer is squarely disgraceful. The miser of fellow, who would not even hesitate to suck a fly picking it up from the tumbler of milk, has not contributed for the worship of Lord Ganesh which we organised this year.’ Some were so much worked up that they even took an oath, ‘What does the lawyer think of himself? Isn’t he a dacoit, out to loot a post office? We must beat him at his own game. We must deflate his ego.’
Then the crowd headed for the house of Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra. He was now happy, rejoicing in his victory, being seated on a chair that he snatched from the post office. Finding him smugly enjoying his booty, the anger of the crowd just flared up. Off they went and pulled the lawyer down his chair and rained their kicks and blows on him cats and dogs.
The unanimous action of the crowd, especially its kicks and boxes, opened his eyes perfectly. His hands folded and joined in a posture of surrender, repenting bitterly of his action, the lawyer came in front of the crowd to plead for their pardon. He was then bleeding profusely, but before he could even think of visiting the hospital, he quickly called a truck and returned the entire load of furniture to the post office.
The postmaster is very happy these days. On rare occasions when he is in a mood to brag, he says, ‘It’s not easy anymore for a villain, even to cast his evil glance on a post office. Look, all the bad fellows on earth! It’s in your interest to remember that post office resides in the hearts of people!’