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Compensation to be paid in case death occurs due to untoward accident in railways: Bombay High Court

The decision that compensation is to be paid to the injured or to the people dependant on the deceased in case of death, where untoward accident takes place in Indian Railways is upheld by the High Court of Bombay through the learned bench led by HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M.S. KARNIK in the case of Smt. Ratta wd/o Subhash Meshram Versus The Union of India, through its General Manager South East Central Railway, Bilaspur, C.G. (FIRST APPEAL NO.116 OF 2022).

Brief facts of the case are that Ravindra Subhash Meshram, the son of the petitioner, was travelling as a bonafide passenger on valid journey ticket from Gondia to Kamptee on 14.05.2018 by Train No.22512, Kamakhya Express. The petitioner’s son Ravinda was standing at the train’s door while travelling in the general compartment because the train was overcrowded.  He lost his balance and fell from the running train at Tumsar Road railway station yard, Line No.4 and died on the spot due to the strong rush and unexpected jerk. Hence, his mother, who was dependant on him for her survival, applied for a compensation. At the trial court, while the petitioner’s counsel tried to establish that Ravindra was a bonafide passenger and had died due to untoward accident, hence his mother should be awarded the compensation, the Railway’s lawyer tried to establish that Ravindra tried to commit suicide and he died due to self-inflicted injury caused due to his negligence. He also argued that the train did not have a scheduled halt a Kamptee and that Ravindra tried to board a running train. The trial court gave the judgement in favour of the railways and held the petitioner incapable of receiving any compensation from the railways. Ratta was held to be dependent of Ravindra, according to the court, as defined by clause (b) of Section 123 of the Railways Act. According to the tribunal Ravindra was not a bonafide passenger because he did not have a valid voyage ticket. The Tribunal further determined that the accident was caused by self-inflicted harm, which comes under Clause (b) of the proviso to Section 124A of the Railways Act, which exempted the Railway from paying compensation. The present case is an appeal to quash the order and make compensation available to the petitioner.

The counsel for petitioner, Ms. S.G. Barbate contended here further that Ravindra possessed a valid trip ticket, hence the Tribunal made a mistake in concluding that he was not a bonafide passenger. She further claimed that Ravindra died as a result of an abrupt jerk that caused him to fall off the train, and that as a result, Ravindra is entitled to compensation because he died in a “untoward occurrence” as defined by clause (c)(2) of Section 123 of the Railways Act. The Tribunal’s decision that Ratta was unable to fulfil her burden that Ravindra died as a result of an unfortunate incident, she claims, is unjustified.

On the other hand, the Counsel for Respondent, Shri. S.A. Chaudhari argued that Ravindra was not a bonafide passenger and denied that he died in an untoward accident. He argued that Ravindra died as a result of his own criminal and negligent behaviour, and the accident was a result of a self-inflicted injury, according to the railway. Railway claims that the deceased committed suicide, hence it is not responsible for compensating Ratta. Railway argued in favour of the challenged judgment’s conclusions. According to him, the train did not make a scheduled stop at Kamptee railway station, hence Ravindra could not be considered a genuine passenger because his railway ticket only covered Kamptee. Ravindra purposefully boarded the wrong train to get home sooner, according to Learned Counsel.

The High Court of Bombay finally ruled in support of the petitioner/ appellant and ordered the Respondent to pay a sum of Rs.8,00,000/- (Rupees Eight Lacs only) with interest @ 6% p.a. from the date of accident, to the petitioner.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY- ATIVA GOSWAMI

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