This article is written by Ayush Agarwal, a student of UPES.
‘My train got delayed’, ‘My goods were stolen’, ‘There was a change of my seat plan, and I didn’t get any information regarding the same’.
These are some of the common phrases used by common men while making their travel through Indian Railways. With these common problems, there are some of the major isssues which has to be dealt by the railways like derailment of the train and untoward accidents.
Indian Railways has the largest network of railways across the world. It carries over 13 million passenger every day. With this large set of population taking up the task has several issues with respect to railways. The enactment under which the rights and duties of the railways are dealt with is the Railway Act, 1989. There are some common problem to which solution are not so common. The liability on the head of the railways has been lowered with the enactment of this act and the claim tribunal of the railways has helped to make application for the claim more stress-free.
Liability of Railways under the Act
The act established the liability of the railways under certain conditions. Section 124 of the Act deals with the conditions where railway is liable for the fault. The conditions in which railways are liable are:
An accident occurs:
- either a collision between trains of which one is a train carrying passengers.
- the derailment of
- or other accident to a train or any part of a train carrying passengers
Railways will be liable if such accident has caused only for loss occasioned by (i) the death of a passenger dying as a result of such accident, (ii) personal injury and (iii) loss, destruction, damage or deterioration of goods owned by the passenger and accompanying him in his compartment or on the train, sustained as a result of such accident.
The amendment act of 1994 made additions to section 124A of the Railways Act, 1989. This section added to the liability of the railways for the Untoward Incidents. The meaning to Untoward Incident as given under Section 123 of the Act includes, (i) the commission of a terrorist act within the meaning of sub-section (1) of section (3) of the Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Act, 1987; or (ii) the making of a violent attack or the commission of robbery or dacoity; or (iii) the indulging in rioting, shoot-out or arson, by any person in or on any train carrying passengers, or in a waiting hall, cloak room or reservation or booking office or on any platform or in any other place within the precincts of a railway station; or (iv) the accidental falling of any passenger from a train carrying passengers. If accident occurs due to any of the above reason the railways authority will be liable to compensation.
The section also provides some of the situation where railways are immune from the liability to pay compensation. If the reason for the accident is (i) suicide or attempted suicide by him; (ii) self-infficented injury; (iii) his own criminal act; (iv) any act committed by him in a state of intoxication or insanity; (v) any natural cause or disease or medical or surgical treatment unless such treatment becomes necessary due to injury caused by the said untoward incident.
Whether a person can claim for the loss of goods which a person loses while he is carrying the goods with him in his own compartment?
No, a person cannot claim for the loss of his person goods unless and until the goods are being carried by the railway authority.
Section 97 of the Railways Act, 1989 talks about Goods Carried at owners risk rate.
It says that the railway authority is not responsible for any loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery in transit of goods of the consignment carried at owner’s risk. To this provision there is an exception which says that the railways will be liable in the cases where such loss to the goods was caused due to some negligence on the part of the railway servants.
Can a person sue Railways for the delays?
If you are travelling by a train and it caused delay then a person can sue the authorities for the inconvenience, but the suit will not succeed. There railway authority will plea for Volenti non Fit Injuria, where the person has voluntarily taken risk by signing the ticket where it is written in small words that the railway authority will not be liable for any delay or cancellation of the trains due to unavoidable / avoidable conditions.
Where to file for a complaint?
Railway has its own Railway Tribunal Act which came into force in the year 1987. Section 13 of the Act gives in the Jurisdiction, Power and Authority of the Tribunal. The powers configured under this Section are (a) relating to the responsibility of the railway administrations as carriers under Chapter VII of the Railways Act in respect of claims for-
(i) compensation for loss, destruction, damages, deterioration or non-delivery of animals or good entrusted to a railway administration for carriage by railway ;
(ii) compensation payable under Sec. 82-A of the Railways Act or the rules made thereunder; and
iii) in respect of the claims for refund of fares or part thereof or for refund of any freight paid in respect of animals or goods entrusted to a railway administration to be carried by railway and the claims under Section 124 of the Railway Act.
Application made with the prescribed fees will is the only requirement under Section 16 to be followed. There is certain limitation period to the filing of the cases. Section 17 talks about the limitation period. If cases of loss, destruction, damages, deterioration or non-delivery of animals or good the limitation period is three years, cases which fall under Section 124A the limitation period is one year and the cases in respect of the claims for refund of fares or part thereof or for refund of any freight paid in respect of animals or goods the limitation period prescribed is three year.
Cases under the claim tribunal can be fought in person, one does not need spend on legal representatives and the cases are decided on the basis of natural justice rather the principals of law.
Railway tribunal is present in only few of the states. Principal bench of the Tribunal is in Delhi and only 18 states are having Railway Tribunal at present. List of Tribunals can be accessed through http://www.rct.indianrail.gov.in/index1.jsp?filename=rct_benches.html .
Amendment under Railway Act (Amendment) Bill, 2014
At present, the provisions of section 109 of the Railways Act, 1989 provides that an application before the Claims Tribunal for compensation for loss of life or personal injury to a passenger, may be instituted against,- (i) the railway administration from where the passenger obtained his pass or purchased his ticket, or (ii) the railway administration on whose railway the destination station lies, or (iii) the loss or personal injury occurred.
The options made available for filing of claims are misused and claims against different railways are filed for the same loss or injury, resulting into filing of duplicate and false claims by the claimants causing loss to the exchequer. To prevent this, it is considered necessary that the railway under whose jurisdiction the loss or injury has occurred should as a rule be made a party amongst others, if any, before the Railway Claims Tribunal, so that the railway under whose jurisdiction loss or injury occurred can check, if the claim against such loss or injury has already been filed.
Under sub-clause (2) of clause (c) of section 123 of the Railways Act, 1989, accident cases of ‘the accidental falling’ of any passenger from a train carrying passengers has been included in the definition of ‘untoward incident’. Most of the cases of ‘the accidental falling’ arising out of falling down from train are because of negligence, carelessness and misadventure on the part of the passengers while entraining and detraining a moving train knowing that any accident may take place. However, railways are being made liable to pay compensation even when there is no fault on the part of railway. Therefore, cases of ‘accidental falling’ will be categorized separately under clause (aa) in section 123 to enable railways to ensure its liability when there is fault on its part and non-payment where there is no fault on its part in such incidents. Through the proposed amendments, the filing of duplicate claims, by making different railways as party for the same claim, could be avoided, and the settlement of compensation in train accidents and untoward incidents, where there is fault on the part of railway, will be expedited.
The act helps one to claim for the compensation one wants but a person cannot claim for the personal faults. Tribunals help one to claim for the loss he has suffered. The problem which tribunals face is the duplicity of cases. To avoid that, bill has been produced in the house. Claim under the Act is easy to claim for the fault of the Railway servants and not for the Personal Faults.