New Delhi: A Speed Post letter that crawled to its destination and cost an unemployed man the chance of a job has earned the postal department the wrath of India’s top consumer court, which pulled it up for deficiency in service and ordered payment of compensation.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission dismissed the pleas of head post master in Rajasthan’s Alwar town and post master of Jaipur’s Sitapura Industrial Area seeking a reduction in the Rs20,000 penalty imposed on them and said: “We feel that Rs20,000 can in no way compensate the respondent for the lost opportunity.”

Commission’s Presiding Member V.B. Gupta and Member Rekha Gupta directed the postal department to pay complainant and Alwar resident Neeraj Gupta Rs10,000 as compensation for not delivering his job application in the same city within the prescribed time of 24 hours in 2010.

In its recent order, the apex consumer commission also directed the department to deposit Rs10,000 in the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the commission by July 20.

The department’s attempt to wriggle out of the mess did not go down well with the commission.

“It is indeed surprising to note that in respect of the inordinate delay in delivery of the Speed Post article which had cost an unemployed youth his chances for obtaining a job, the department is trying to get out by paying a paltry compensation of Rs20,000 to Gupta,” said the commission.

The postal department had appealed in the national commission against a state consumer commission’s judgment in favour of Gupta. The apex consumer commission has now upheld the state commission’s verdict.

“We find that there is no jurisdictional error, illegality or infirmity in the order passed by the state commission warranting our interference. The revision petition is dismissed on merit as well as on limitation with cost of Rs20,000,” said the national commission.

The postal department “is a service provider and the Consumer Protection Act should be consumer-friendly and not one which works against the interest of the consumer”, the national commission said, rejecting the contention that Gupta was not entitled to compensation.

The national commission also frowned over the litigation cost the department would have incurred in its bid to avoid paying the Rs20,000 penalty.

“The petitioner should also see whether it is justifiable and fair to deny paying a meagre compensation of Rs20,000 to the consumer by spending far more on legal expenses in fighting the case in different fora,” the national commission said.

Gupta said in his complaint he posted his job application letter through Speed Post December 23, 2010, for the office of district parishad, Alwar, that had invited applications for the post of gram sewak and ex-officio secretary.

He said the last date for applying for the job was December 27, 2010, and at the time of sending the letter the postal staff told him that it would be delivered by December 24, 2010.

Gupta said the letter returned to his house December 30, 2010, without any official explanation.