A 74-year-old woman had to fight a 14-year-long legal battle with the Railways to get compensation for her valuables, which went missing while she was travelling from New Delhi to Secunderabad in 2003.
While upholding the order of the District Forum, the Delhi State Consumer Commission (DSCC) said: “Once the passenger takes the train ticket, it is the responsibility of the Railways to see that the passenger reaches the destination safely with his luggage and belongings. It is the duty of the Railways staff to see that the belongings of the passengers are safe”.
The DSCC was hearing an appeal filed by the Northern Railway against the order of the District Forum, which had asked it to pay ₹1,34,400 to the complainant for loss of luggage, including jewellery and sarees, along with compensation of ₹5,000 and litigation costs of ₹11,000.
‘Compensation is high’
The Railways had said that the District Forum decided the amount of compensation without any documentary evidence such as bills of the articles lost and added that the compensation was on the higher side.
Junking the argument, a Bench of Justice Veena Birbal and Member Salma Noor said: “The amount quoted by the respondent/complainant for her lost articles is ₹1,33,400. We do not believe that a lady of that age will tell a lie for such an amount. It is also evident that there was a huge suffering and time and harassment of nearly 10 years before the District Forum and about four years before us in this appeal.”
In the instant case, the complainant was travelling from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Secunderabad on the Kongu Express on January 22, 2003 to attend the “Kanaka Abhishekam” ceremony of her grandson.
The complainant said as the train started, many unauthorised people entered the coach and neither the ticket checker nor personnel of the Railway Protection Force took any steps to get them out despite her raising an objection.
When the train reached Bhopal, she realised that her suitcase was missing. She contacted the attendant but in vain.
The Railways claimed immunity under Section 100 of the Railways Act saying it is not responsible for the goods, which were not booked with them, and added that it was the duty of the passenger to take care of their luggage while travelling.
The DCSS, however, noted that Section 100 of the Railways Act does not provide immunity to the Railways in case luggage is lost due to negligence of the Railways staff.
“In this particular case the finding of the lower fora are that there has been negligence on the part of the Railways,” the DCSS noted.
“A passenger travelling by a train is entitled to carry certain baggage or luggage within permissible limits of weight, free of cost. There is no question of entrusting such baggage/luggage to the Railways and getting a receipt thereof. If a loss takes place of such a luggage, Railways can be held responsible provided that there is negligence on the part of Railways or any of its servants, provided, of course, that the passenger himself has taken reasonable care of his personal baggage as expected of a prudent person,” it said.
On Railways argument that the District Forum awarded the compensation without any invoice etc, the Commission said, “In this regard we have to see that the respondent/complainant was going to attend the ‘Kanaka Abhishekam’ ceremony of her grand son and was carrying some gold items for that ceremony. From our day to day experience, we know that sometimes it is not possible for us to keep every bill, invoice for each and every article. In this case the respondent/complainant failed to provide any documentary evidence like bills etc. to support her allegations but she filed her own affidavit. Therefore, we do not find any valid reason to disbelieve the respondent/complainant who is an old lady…”
Source – The Hindu