Rail accidents are not an uncommon sight in India. Such incidents can often be found in one’s daily dose of news. The Railway Claims Tribunal was established under the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 to provide quick redressal of grievances to the rail users, victims and passengers. In a recent case, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana provided Rs. 8 lakh to the kin of a victim who died in a rail accident.
Facts of the case
Somprakash was a resident of Mandhaur in Ambala and had fallen out of a moving train in June 2010, while he was coming back after meeting his daughter in Jhanjhari village. He had purchased a ticket and boarded a train from Jagadhri railway station to Ambala cantonment in Haryana. He accidentally fell out of the train when it reached near Mustafabad railway station.
The railways denied any compensation to the deceased by stating that the injuries sustained by the deceased were either self-inflicted or a result of his own negligence. Moreover, no ticket was recovered from the deceased’s body so the railways didn’t believe him to be a bonafide passenger. The Railway Claims Tribunal ordered in the favour of railways, and denied compensation to the man claiming that he didn’t have a valid ticket.
This decision of the Railway Claims Tribunal was challenged by the deceased’s two sons before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, situated in Chandigarh. They sought a relief of Rs. 6 lakhs. The High Court overturned the Tribunal’s decision as not finding the ticket during search of the body cannot be held as a conclusive proof to declare the passenger ticket-less as there’s a very likely possibility of losing one’s ticket in such scenarios. The High Court awarded Rs. 8 lakhs to the kin of the deceased.
Acts and Rules governing the Railway Claims Tribunal
- The Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987
- The Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989
- The Railway Accidents And Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 1990
Procedure and Powers of the Railway Claims Tribunal
Section 18 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 talks about the procedure and powers of the Railway Claims Tribunal. It states that:
(1) The Claims Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and,
subject to the other provisions of this Act and of any rules, the Claims Tribunal shall have powers to regulate its own procedure including the fixing of places and times of its enquiry.
(2) The Claims Tribunal shall decide every application as expeditiously as possible and ordinarily every application shall be decided on a perusal of documents, written representations and affidavits and after hearing such oral arguments as may be advanced.
(3) The Claims Tribunal shall have, for the purposes of discharging its functions under this Act, the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit, in respect of the following matters, namely:—
(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
(b) requiring the discovery and production of documents;
(c) receiving evidence on affidavits;
(d) subject to the provisions of sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), requisitioning any public record or document or copy of such record or document from any office;
(e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
(f) reviewing its decisions;
(g) dismissing an application for default or deciding it ex parte;
(h) setting aside any order of dismissal of any application for default or any order passed by it ex parte;
(i) any other matter which may be prescribed.
The process of appeal, which is to be filed before the respective High Court, is given under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987.
Redressal of a Victim of a Rail Accident
Section 124A in The Railways Act, 1989 provides Compensation on account of untoward incident. It states that:
When in the course of working a railway an untoward incident occurs, then whether or not there has been any wrongful act, neglect or default on the part of the railway administration such as would entitle a passenger who has been injured or the dependant of a passenger who has been killed to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the railway administration shall, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, be liable to pay compensation to such extent as may be prescribed and to that extent only for loss occasioned by the death of, or injury to, a passenger as a result of such untoward incident.
This is subject to a few exceptions including self-inflicted injury, intoxicated state of the victim etcetera.
In the case of Shyam Narayan and others vs Union of India, it was held by the Delhi High Court that “negligence will not disentitle grant of compensation under the Railways Act, however, once the negligence becomes a criminal negligence and self-inflicted injury then compensation cannot be granted”.
With the setting up of the Railway Claims Tribunal in India definitely, the access to justice is available to all the people. The Railway Claim Tribunal with its benches across the nation has also reduced the burden on courts in the country. You may also take expert legal advice from Railroad & Railway Claim Tribunal best/top/expert advocates/lawyers in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula for any of your specific grievances regarding Railways/Railway Claims Tribunal.
This post is written by Simranjot Kaur of Army Institute of Law.
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