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In this article, Aditi Srivastava of Law School, BHU (Banaras Hindu University) discusses the Railway Claims Tribunal.

Railway Claims Tribunal

The administration of the Railways is not limited only to the running of the Railway, it is something beyond that. The functioning of the Railways also includes issues like the loss or damage to the goods of passengers travelling in the trains, non-delivery of the goods, thefts, accidents causing injuries and death of the passengers as well as of the common people and many more issues. Substantive liability of the Railway Administration for these issues is laid down in the Railway Act, 1989.

Since it is difficult to get fast adjudication in the normal courts since there are a large number of cases of all the areas running in these courts and all because the process to get justice in these courts is a bit complex. And, so the Railway Claims Tribunal was established under the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 which came into force from 8th November 1989 to provide the speedy justice to the rail users and passengers by way of expeditious payment of compensation to the victims of rail accidents, to give compensation to the people whose goods are lost or damaged while with railways. To provide better access to the people across the country, various benches of the tribunal are established in the country.

Chairman

The current Chairman of the Railway Claims Tribunal, Principal Bench (Delhi Bench) is Hon’ble Mr. Justice K Kannan.

The Chairman holds the office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains, the age of sixty-five years.

Powers of the Chairman

  • Financial and administrative powers of Chairman

The chairman by the virtue of Section 11 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 has power to exercise such financial and administrative powers over the benches as may be vested in him under the Railways Claims Tribunal (Financial And Administrative Powers) Rules, 1989.

Rule 4 of the Railways Claim Tribunal (Financial And Administrative Powers) Rules, 1989 says that the Chairman shall have the powers in respect of matters specified in the schedule as are conferred on a General Manager of a railway administration.

  • Additional powers of Chairman

The Chairman as per clause 3 of section 4 of the Railway Claims Tribunal, 1987 has the power to transfer a Vice-Chairman or other member from one bench to another Bench.

As per clause 3 of section 4 of the Railways Claims Tribunal, 1987, the Chairman has a power to authorise the Vice-chairman or the other Judicial member or the technical member appointed to one bench to discharge also the functions of the Vice-Chairman or, as the case may be, the Judicial or the technical member of another bench.

Aim and Mission

The Railway Claims Tribunal is set up for meeting the goals discussed in the following paragraphs.

  • To provide for speedy and expeditious adjudication to the people
  • To provide a simple procedure which is consists of less formality by the medium of a specialized tribunal
  • To provide better access to justice by establishing benches in all throughout the country
  • To reduce the burden of the Courts of law as the railway cases go to a specialized tribunal now.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction of the Tribunal

The Railway Claims Tribunal exercises all such jurisdiction, powers, and authority as were exercisable immediately by any Civil Court or a Claims Commissioner appointed under the provisions of the Railways Act which are related to:

  1. The responsibility of the railway administrations as carriers under Chapter VII of the Railways Act in respect of claims related to:
  • Compensation for loss, destruction, damages, deterioration or non-delivery of animals or goods entrusted to a railway administration for carriage by railway,
  • Compensation payable under Sec. 124 & 124A of the Railways Act of the rules made thereunder; and
  1. Claims for refund of fares or part thereof or for the refund of any freight paid in respect of animals or goods entrusted to a railway administration to be carried by railway.

Territorial Jurisdiction of the Benches

The territorial jurisdiction of the various benches of the Railway Claims Tribunal are provided in the table below:

Sr. No. The Bench of the Railway Claims Tribunal Territorial Jurisdiction of the Bench
1. Ahmedabad Gujarat, Union Territory of Diu.
2. Bangalore Karnataka
3. Bhopal Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
4. Bhubaneswar Orissa

5. Mumbai i) Districts of Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Pune, Nasik, Ahmednagar, Satara, Ratnagiri, Sindhydurg, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Dhule, Aurangabad, Beed of Maharashtra

ii) Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

iii) Goa                        

6. Nagpur All District of Maharashtra except those included in item (i) of column (3) against serial number 5.

7. Chandigarh Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Union territory of Chandigarh.

8. Kolkata(2) West Bengal, Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

9. Guwahati Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland.

10. Ernakulam Kerala, Union Territory of Lakshadweep.

11. Gorakhpur Districts of Gorakhpur, Deoria, Ballia, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Mau, Basti, Siddharthnagar, Mirzapur, Robertsgang, Jaunpur, Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich, Varansi, Maharaj Ganj, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Chandauli, Sant Ravi Das Nagar, Balrampur and Ambedkar Nagar of Uttar Pradesh.

12. Ghaziabad Districts of Agra, Bulandshahar, Moradabad, Bijnore, Mathura, Ghaziabad, Merrut, Aligarh, and Saharanpur, Jyotiba Phule Naagr(Amraha), Gautam Budh Nagar(Noida), Maha Maya Nagar(Hathras), Muzaffar Nagar, Rampur, Pilibhit and Mainpuri of the State of Uttar Pradesh, District of Hardwar & Dehradun of the State of Uttaranchal

12A. Lucknow All Districts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal except those included in Column (3) against serial number 11 and 12

13. Jaipur Rajasthan

14. New Delhi (2) Union Territory of Delhi

15. Patna Bihar

15 A. Ranchi Jharkhand

16. Chennai Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Pondicherry

17. Secunderabad Andhra Pradesh

Benches across the Nation

The RCT (Railway Claims Tribunal) to provide better access to justice for the people has its benches throughout the nation. There are basically 21 benches of the RCT (including the principal bench at Delhi) at 18 major cities. The map provided will give you a clear idea of where the various branches are located.

Procedure Followed by the Railway Claims Tribunal

Section 18 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 talks about procedure and powers of Claims Tribunal.

  • The Claims Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure which is laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908).
  • But, it shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and subject to other provisions of the Act and of any rules.
  • The Claim Tribunal is having the power to regulate its own procedure including the fixing of places and times of its inquiry.

Power of the Railway Claims Tribunal

The Section 18 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 mentions that for the purpose of discharging its functions under this Act, it shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, while trying a suit.

Compensation

The Railway Claims Tribunal basically provides for quicker relief and early payments of compensation in the following cases.

  1. Death and injury in case of railway accident & untoward, in this case, the claimant has to file the claim directly before the Railway Claims Tribunal.
  2. For loss, destruction, damage, deterioration, non-delivery of animal/goods booked by railway or for the refund of fare or freight in case the claimant is not satisfied with the relief that was provided by the railway administration.

Appeals

If a person is dissatisfied with the order of the Railway Claims Tribunal, he may file an appeal. The process of appeal is given under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act,1987.

  • Section 23 mentions that subject to sub-section (2) and anything contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) or in any other law, an appeal of every order of the Claims Tribunal ( not being an interlocutory order ), shall lie to the High Court having jurisdiction over the place where the bench is located.
  • Also, it is mentioned in Clause 2, of the same section, that no appeal shall lie from an order passed by the Claims Tribunal with the consent of the parties.
  • Clause 3, of the section, says that every appeal shall be preferred within the period of ninety days from the date of the order appealed against.

Do you have to hire a Lawyer or you can present your own case before the Railway Claims Tribunal

As per section 19 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 a person who makes an application to the Claims Tribunal has an option either to appear in person or take the assistance of a legal practitioner of his choice to present his case before the Claim Tribunal.

Also, the Railway administration may authorize one or more legal practitioners or any of its officers to act as presenting officers and each of this so authorized person may present its case with respect to any application before the Claims Tribunal.

Who sits as a judge in the Tribunal?

Section 4 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 says that the Claims Tribunal shall consist of a Chairman, four Vice-Chairman and such number of Judicial Members and Technical Members as the Central Government may deem fit.

It further says that a Bench shall consist of one Judicial Member and one Technical member.

Qualification

Section 5 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 talks about the various qualifications for appointment of Chairman, Vice-Chairman or other members.

Clause 1 of the Section, says that a person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chairman unless he-

  1. Is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court, or
  2. Has, for at least two years, held the office of a Vice-Chairman.

The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and every other Member shall be appointed by the President only after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

Tenure

The tenure of office (as in Section 7 the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987) of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman or other Member is for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains-

  • Age of sixty-five years (in the case of the Chairman) and
  • Age of sixty-two years, (in the case of the Vice-Chairman or any other Member), whichever is earlier.

Resignation

Clause 1 of Section 8 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 talks about the process of the Resignation of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other Member.

It says that the Chairman, Vice-chairman or other members may, by giving notice in writing under his hand addressed to the President, resign his office.

Also, it is mentioned that unless the person resigning, is permitted by the President to relinquish his office sooner, he is bound to continue to hold his office till 3 months from the date of receipt of such notice or until a person appointed to succeed him enters upon his office or until the expiry of his office term (whichever is the earlier).

Removal

As per Clause 2 of Section 8 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman or any other member shall be removed by the President only on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity only after enquiry is made by a Judge of the Supreme Court in which such Chairman, Vice-Chairman or other member had been informed of the charges against him and he was given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

Acts and Rules governing the Railway Claims Tribunal

  • The Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987

This Act provides for the establishment of a Railway Claims Tribunal to inquire into and determine claims against a railway administration for any loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery of animals or goods entrusted to it to be carried by railway or for the refund of fares or freight or for compensation for death or injury to passengers occurring as a result of railway accidents or untoward incidents and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Act discusses Jurisdiction, powers, and authority of Claims Tribunal and appeals and procedures related to appeals. Also, the Act discusses various miscellaneous provisions.

This Act also provides for the following:

  1. the jurisdiction, powers, and authority which may be exercised by the Claims Tribunal;
  2. the procedure (including provisions as to limitation) to be followed by the Claims Tribunal;
  3. the exclusion of jurisdiction of all Courts exercising ordinary civil jurisdiction relating to specified claims for compensation and refund against the railway administration;
  4. the transfer to the Claims Tribunal of any suit or other proceeding, other than an appeal pending before any Court or other authority immediately before the establishment of such Claims Tribunal as would have been within the jurisdiction of such Claims Tribunal if the cause of action on which such suits or proceedings are based has arisen after such establishment.

This Act is available here.

  • The Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989

These are the rules made by the Central Government dealing with the procedure for filing applications, application fees, documents to accompany the application, and other rules.

See Rules here.

  • The Railway Accidents And Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 1990

These are the rules made by the Central Government dealing with the claim of compensation, limit of compensation given in the case of the Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents.

See Rules here.

Important Judgments

Few important judgments will give a clear idea of how the Railway Claims Tribunal functions and how and where the appeals from tribunal are dealt with.

  • Abhinandan vs Union of India

In this case of the year 2017, the Delhi High Court was hearing an appeal filed under Section 23 of the Railways Claim Tribunal. In this appeal, an order passed by the Railway Claims Tribunal in the year 2015, was challenged, in which his claim was dismissed. The Delhi High Court refused to grant compensation to this man, who had lost both his legs in an accident while he was boarding a train, observing that he had been intoxicated during the occurrence of the accident.

The reliance of the claim by the appellant was made on the basis of Section 124A of the Act, which says a that the injured person or the legal heirs of a deceased passenger, in case of an accident is entitled to compensation. But, the Proviso to the provision, disqualifies a passenger if he suffers from an injury on account of the state of intoxication.

It was held in this case “The object of the different sub-sections mentioned in the Proviso of Section 124A of the Railways Act is to provide for situations where the accident is caused on account of self-inflicted injury, and in which circumstances on account of the injury effectively being self-inflicted, the accident is not covered under the term “untoward incident” as provided under the Railways Act.”

  • Shyam Narayan and others vs Union of India

In the present case, the Delhi High Court was hearing an appeal challenging order passed in May 2016 by the Railway Claims Tribunal, which was filed under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act. In that order, the tribunal had denied compensation for the death of a passenger as according to the tribunal the deceased had died due to criminal negligence.

Relying on the first proviso to Section 124-A of the Railways Act, which says that compensation will be denied, in case death takes place on the account of suicide or attempted suicide, self inflicted injury, bonafide passenger’s own criminal act or an act committed by the deceased in the state of intoxication or insanity, the court said that as the deceased had tried to board a speeding train, the act of the deceased was one of the criminal negligence, and upheld the order given by the Tribunal.

The court held 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”.

Website of the Railway Claims Tribunal

The website of the Railway Claims Tribunal provides users an access to cause list, case status, judgments and daily orders of the Tribunal. It also provides information to the users regarding Acts, RCT (procedure) rules, the Railway Act, provisions and notifications about various circulars. The claim of loss and damage are also available in downloadable forms. Also, details about the Tribunal, its aims, objectives, jurisdiction, benches, etc. are given on the website.

See Website here.

RCT Member’s Fraud Case

Recently, in January, this year a shocking news of fraudulent disbursement of compensation came up about a member of Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT), R K Mittal who had alleged irregularities in disbursement of around Rs 50 crore between 2015 and 2017 and a prob is going against him, according to Indian Express report. Principal bench’s chairman, Justice (retired) K Kannan had sent a letter to the Railway Ministry, about findings of the internal probe showing that Mittal was allegedly “complicit” with a group of five lawyers in Patna. These lawyers represented 91 percent of all the applicants during May 2015 to August 2017 to commit ‘deliberate fraud’ on the Railways. One of the key findings was that Mittal allegedly issued 950 “warrants of recovery” directly to the Reserve Bank of India, Patna, ordering it to deduct the money claimed from the Railways’ account.

Later, in the Feb, this year the Railway handed over a case against a member of the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) regarding the fraudulent disbursement of compensation to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Conclusion

With the establishment of the Railway Claims Tribunal in the country definitely, the access to justice is available to all the people. The justice is now speedy and easy to get. The Railway Claim Tribunal with its benches across the nation has also reduced the burden on courts in the country.

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