Burdwan, April 19: The district consumer court has ruled that passengers in local and long-distance trains holding first-class monthly/quarterly tickets can travel in AC three-tier and sleeper coaches if they have berths vacant.
The court said daily passengers commuting on the Howrah-Dhanbad and Howrah-Bolpur sections of Eastern Railway with first-class monthly and quarterly tickets can travel in AC chair car, AC three-tier and sleeper-class coaches of mail and express trains plying through the sections.
The order named the Santiniketan Express, Coalfield Express and Black Diamond Express, for instance.
The directive of the Burdwan District Consumers' Redressal Forum is without parallel. It virtually gives the daily passengers liberty to barge into reserved coaches of long-distance trains.
Earlier, first-class monthly holders had separate coaches for them. When these coaches were abolished, the passengers began travelling in AC chair cars.
However, on February 23, last year, Eastern Railway issued an order saying these passengers were not entitled to travel in AC chair cars, though their fares were less than first-class fares.
Five daily passengers from Burdwan ' first-class monthly or quarterly ticket holders who used to travel between Howrah and Asansol ' appealed to the consumer forum against the directive in August 2004.
The group of five brought charges of negligence and unfair trade practice against Eastern Railway.
In its order, issued last week, the forum directed the railway to allow all first-class monthly holders to travel in AC and sleeper coaches.
'Eastern Railway is directed to permit travel of first-class monthly/quarterly holders in AC chair car coaches against seats lying vacant in the inter-city fast express trains like Black Diamond Express, Santiniketan Express and Coalfield Express. Eastern Railway is further directed to allow travel in reserved coaches of AC three-tier sleeper, AC chair car and sleeper coaches in other express trains when such trains do not have first-class coaches,' the order says.
Divisional railway manager Hari Ballav Sharma said he was yet to receive a copy of the order. 'Those holding first-class monthly tickets cannot travel in AC chair car. This is a policy matter,' he added.
The divisional commercial manager, M. Adhikary, declined comment.
Sanjug Banerjee, the lawyer on behalf of the petitioners, said he had a copy of the order with him.
About 5,000 passengers travelling on the Howrah-Dhanbad and Howrah-Bolpur sections have first-class monthlies, Banerjee said. 'Eastern Railway had forced these people to travel in second-class compartments by an order in February last year.'