The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Negligence stick for railways

New Delhi, Nov. 3 (PTI): The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has hauled up the railways for failing to protect the belongings of a traveller in its reserved compartment and asked it to pay Rs 20,000 apart from litigation costs of Rs 3,000 to the aggrieved.

The commission ruled that the railways cannot escape liability for losses caused to passengers in its reserved compartments by taking recourse to the immunity provided to it in the railways Act. “(The) railways is responsible for care and protection of the passengers in reserved compartments,” it said.

Section 100 of the railways Act says the national carrier has no obligation to safeguard a passenger’s luggage and is not liable for its theft unless it is specifically booked in the luggage van.

Commission president Justice D.P. Wadhwa and members J.K. Mehra, Rajyalakshmi Rao and B.K. Taimini, however, argued: “The immunity given by the clause is in a general sense.”

The complainant, A. Shamim, said she was travelling in a Hyderabad-bound express train on November 11, 1998 when a woman barged into her reserved compartment. The passengers tried to resist her and informed the ticket inspector.

When Shamim discovered that she had lost Rs 5,800 and some study material, she immediately pulled the chain but the train did not stop as the device was faulty.

The Southern Railway general manager denied the allegation, saying the incident was not true as it had not been proved.

Rejecting the railways’ arguments, the commission said the national carrier did not adduce any evidence to deny that the chain was defective.

Upholding the order of the district forum and the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission that went in favour of the complainant, the national commission said: “In reality, if the reserved compartment is not protected from intruders and if the railway chain when needed to be used to alert and to warn the guard in emergency is itself defective, then the railways is guilty of deficiency in service.”

“The TTE was present and yet ignored the passengers’ pleas and did not offer any help or support which in our opinion is clear deficiency in service and negligence,” the commission added.

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