Man overcharged 20 rupees for India train ticket wins 22-year legal battle

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An Indian lawyer has won a 22-year legal battle with Indian Railways for overcharging him by 20 rupees (21p or 25c).

When Tungnath Chaturvedi, 66, bought a ticket at Mathura station in Uttar Pradesh in 1999 to go to Moradabad, he was charged 90 rupees instead of 70. He complained there and then but did not receive a refund.

Chaturvedi filed a complaint with the local consumer court in Mathura against the North East Railways Service division of Indian Railways and, after 100 hearings, the court ruled last week in his favour, ordering the railways to pay a fine of 15,000 rupees (£154 or $188), as well as the outstanding amount plus 12% interest. If the sum is not paid in 30 days, the interest will rise to 15%.

The ruling was sweet vindication for Chaturvedi but, as he told the BBC: “You can’t put a price on the energy and time I’ve lost fighting this case.”

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The case highlights India’s overloaded court system, where around 40m cases are clogging up the system. Legal cases have been known to take 10-15 years to reach a conclusion.

What is surprising is Chaturvedi’s pertinacity over a minuscule amount, including taking the case right up to the supreme court when a railway tribunal dismissed the case.

His family tried to convince him that it was pointless and a waste of time and money, even though he represented himself and so had no legal fees to pay, but he was adamant. “It’s not the money that matters,” he told the BBC. “This was always about a fight for justice and a fight against corruption, so it was worth it.”

Equally surprising was that Indian Railways, the country’s largest employer, chose to continue fighting the case.