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Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:04 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 12:04 AM (IST)CONSUMERS BEWARE!

Railways must ensure safe travel

Railways must ensure safe travel

Pushpa Girimaji

RECENTLY, while travelling by Duronto Express, I was sitting at the window and when the train slowed down, a miscreant snatched the gold chain that I was wearing around my neck and disappeared. The chain, bought recently, had cost me Rs 60,000 and I am distressed at this development. I lodged a police complaint, but they have not been able to catch the thief and recover the chain. I am now thinking of filing a complaint before the consumer court, seeking compensation for my loss from the Indian Railways. What are my chances of winning the case?

You have not explained the details of the theft. Was the thief inside the train? Or was he/she outside the train? By looking at the decisions of the apex consumer court on the issue, I would say that if it is the former, then your chances of getting relief through the consumer court are very high. On the other hand, if the thief was outside the train, then you may find it difficult to win the case against the Railways. In such a case, I would suggest that you put pressure on the police to nab the culprit and recover the chain.

Can you please give case laws to help me understand the issue and take my complaint forward?

Let me give two recent orders to help you understand the view of the apex consumer court. In Station Superintendent, North Western Railway and three others Vs Jasmin Man, the apex consumer court fully agreed with the view of the lower consumer courts to award compensation to the passenger who lost her belongings kept in a purse.

As per the detailed information in the order, on February 8, 2011, the complainant was travelling from Delhi Sarai Rohilla to Ganganagar in an air-conditioned two-tier coach . The train left the station at 10.50 PM and was to reach its destination in the morning. Since the complainant was carrying two pairs of diamond jhumkas, a ruby necklance and another necklace besides Rs 6000 cash in her hand bag, she put the handle of the bag around her hand, put her hand on her chest and covered the bag with her blanket while sleeping. However around midnight, someone tried to snatch her bag and she got pulled up to the door, as she resisted and held on to the bag. Unfortunately by then the handle of her bag broke and the thief took advantage of the fact that the train had slowed down at that time and disappeared. The complainant said that despite her cries for help, no coach attendant or TTE came to her rescue and even later, their response to her complaint was poor. Besides, she found that the door of the AC coach had not been locked, allowing the thief an opportunity to commit theft. 

The District Forum in this case held the coach attendant negligent in leaving the door to the AC coach open and awarded a compensation of Rs 2,30,000 towards loss of jewellery and cash, along with 9 per cent interest calculated from the date of filing the case, beside Rs 30,000 for mental agony and distress caused. The Forum also awarded Rs 10,000 towards costs. This was upheld by State Commission as well as the National Consumer Disputes Redressal commission. (RP No 3047 of 2017, decided on December 15, 2017) 

In Union of India, Indian Railways and four others Vs Nand Kishore (RP NO 1335 of 2017, date of order: March 23, 2018) the complainant was travelling from Chennai to Hazrat Nizamuddin by Duronto Express on June 26, 2012. He was sitting next to the window and around 1 AM as the train slowed down near Itarsi station, there was some commotion and suddenly the complainant found someone from outside the train putting out his and snatching the chain around his neck. 

In this case, the District Forum awarded a compensation of Rs 30,000 for the loss of the chain, besides Rs 3000 towards mental agony and Rs 3000 towards costs. This was upheld by the State Commission. However, the National Commission disagreed with their view and pointed out that the railways cannot be held guilty of negligence or liable in this case because the theft was not committed by an unauthorized person entering the coach, but by someone outside the train, who had snatched the gold chain through the window. So the orders of the lower courts are not sustainable, the Commission said. However, it said since the railways had already paid the consumer the awarded amount and considering that it is not very big, the railways need not recover it from the complainant.

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