Indian rail passengers have suffered due to lax security and the attitude of railway staff, and robberies and thefts are daily routine on the trains.
Trying to put a stop to such casual approach and somewhat classifying a rail passenger as a consumer, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has held the Railways liable to compensate the woman for theft of her luggage, saying there was failure on the part of the ticket checker to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved coach.
The consumer panel rejected the contention of the railways that there was no negligence on their part and unless the goods were booked with them, they are not liable to pay the compensation. The railways had claimed that the passenger was responsible for taking care of her luggage.
Duty of TTE to ensure that nobody enters reserved compartment
But the NCDRC Bench of Justice Ajit Bharihoke said "undisputedly, the complainant (doctor) and her daughter were travelling in a reserved coach and it was the duty of the TTE (ticket checker) to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved compartment."
"Since apparently there was a failure on the part of the TTE to prevent entry of unauthorised person in the coach during the night, the fora below were right in holding the petitioner liable for deficiency in service to the respondent (doctor) in this regard," a bench said.
The Bench also quoted from a judgement in another case on the liability of the railways: .......... ...... One has to presume that passenger would take reasonable care of his luggage. But, he cannot be expected to take measures against intruders getting easily into reserved compartments and running away with goods, when the railway administration is charged with the responsibility to prevent such unauthorized entry. We have entered the 21st century and we cannot carry on our daily life in the same age old fashion with bearing brunt of indifferent service provided by public authorities like Railways. People expect in the 21st century a modicum of efficient and reliable service, which provides at least safety of person and property while traveling in reserved compartments".
The NCDRC order came while dismissing the Railways' appeal against the orders of the Uttar Pradesh State Consumer Commission and the District Forum which had held the Indian Railways responsible to compensate the complainant, Dr Shobha Agarwal.
Rejecting the contention of the Railways, the NCDRC said no interference is required in the orders of the state consumer commission and the district forum. The district forum had directed Railways to pay Agarwal Rs 2.01 lakh as compensation, while the UP state commission had dismissed its appeal against that order.
The case hsitory
Shobha Agarwal was travelling with her daughter in a AC second class sleeper with reserved berth Nos.35 & 36 from Gorakhpur to Beena by 1016 UP Kushinagar Express.
She noticed some unauthorised person in the coach the doctor complained to the ticket checker but no action was taken by him. The same suspected person was again seen in reserved coach at about 2 am in the night.
When the doctor woke up at 7 am in the morning, she found that her suitcase which had been tied under the berth with the help of chain and lock, was missing. The suitcase had been stolen by cutting the chain and lock. When the ticket checker was told about the theft, after some initial reluctance he received the complaint but refused to receive the list of the stolen articles.
The doctor brought the incident to the notice of the Railway Department and Railway Minister by writing letters to the authorities and the railways lodged an FIR a year later. Alleging negligence on the part of the railways, the complainant lodged a consumer complaint before the District Forum.