KALLUPRASAD KRUSHNANAND DUBE Vs. UNION OF INDIA OWING AND REPRESENTING
HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT
Kalluprasad Krushnanand Dube
Union Of India Owing And Representing
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N.V.ANJARIA, J. -
(1.) WHETHER a passenger traveling on the roof of the train, when died having suffered electrocution while getting down from the roof, could claim compensation from the Railway Authorities under Section 124 -A of the Railways Act, 1989? Was it an "untoward incident" contemplated in the Section?
(2.) THESE are the main questions surfacing in this First Appeal preferred under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, seeking to challenge judgment and order dated 27.10.2009 passed by the Railway Claims Tribunal, Ahmedabad Bench, Ahmedabad. The claim application being Case No. OA 0100052 was filed under Section 125 of the Railways Act by the claimants -the parents of the deceased minor named Vivek, asking for compensation of Rs.4 Lacs. The same came to be dismissed by the Tribunal as per its impugned judgment and order.
(3.) SIFTING relevant, excluding unnecessary details, in the claim application it was the case of the claimants that the deceased was traveling from Bhusaval to Surat in a train No. 76 -UP. He had purchased the ticket of second class from Bhusaval Railway Station. It was stated that there was a heavy rush in the bogie and no vacant seat was available. It was contended that the Railways Authorities did not provide additional bogie on account of which the passengers were compelled on sit on the roof of the train. The deceased who climbed up the roof of the train, accidentally dashed with the electric wire while trying to get down near Udhna Railway Station. Having suffered burn injuries on the whole body, he was admitted to hospital, where he succumbed to the injuries on 19.05.1998 at about 2245 hours. The Railway filed its written statement denying the case and contending inter alia that the incident described was not an "untoward incident" as defined in Section 123 -C(2) of the Railways Act and that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger. It was contended that no liability would arise for the Railway Authorities to pay the compensation. 3.1 The Claims Tribunal framed the following issues
(i) Whether the deceased was a bona fide passenger of the train in question?
(ii) Whether any untoward incident as alleged in the claim application took place within the meaning of Section 123 and Section 124(A) of the Indian Railways Act, 1989?
(iii) To what amount of compensation, are the applicants entitled to?
(iv) Whether the applicants are the only dependent of the deceased?
(v) Any other relief? As stated above, the Claims Tribunal dismissed the application.
Learned advocate Mr. P. J. Mehta for the appellants -claimants submitted that the deceased had a valid ticket purchased by him and on that basis, he had boarded the train. It was submitted that it was not his fault that he could not get a seat in the bogie and therefore, sat on the roof of the train. It was further contended that it was the duty of the Railways Authorities to provide an additional bogie; the authorities were enjoined to issue warning if the passengers were not to be allowed to travel by sitting on the roof, it was contended. It was also contended that where there was non -availability of traveling space and accommodation was not provided, due to which the deceased passenger was compelled to travel on the roof, were the circumstances created by the authorities themselves.
4.1 It was further submitted by learned advocate for the appellants that Section 124 -A of the Railways Act imposes a strict liability in respect of compensation for death of a passenger in an untoward incident and that such liability arises in law irrespective of negligence on part of the Railways. It was contended that unless a warning is issued by the Railway Authorities concerned, which was not issued in this case, Section 156 of the Act could not be applied. It was contended that the evidence led by the railway authorities did not establish that any efforts made for climbing down the passenger traveling on the roof of the bogie of 76 -UP Bhusaval Surat Railway Passenger by Station Supdt. Udhna, Railway Police Force as well as Railway Guard on the day of incident. It was submitted that in view of Section 51 of the Railways Act, it was obligatory on part of the authorities to provide accommodation to the passengers who were issued tickets.
4.2 Learned advocate relied on following decisions in support of his submissions, (i) Union of India vs. Prabhakaran Vijayakumar and ors., 2008 9 SCC 527 (ii) Union of India through General Manager vs. Ashokbhai Govindbhai Patni, 2009 3 GLR 1845 (iii) Puspaben Jitendrakumar Shah vs. Union of India and Ors., 2005 ACJ 191 (iv) Union of India vs. Krishan Lal and Ors., 2009 ACJ 2158 (v) Ashrani Das vs. Union of India and anr., 2010 ACJ 2777 and (vi) Balagoni Siva Prasad vs. Union of India, 2009 ACJ 1332 .
4.3 Learned advocate Mr. Ravi Karnavat for the respondent -Railway Authorities submitted that the deceased was traveling on the roof. He contended that when the deceased was outside the train and on the roof of the bogie, he incurred risk on his own and he was not a bona fide passenger. It was submitted that the deceased, by traveling on the roof of the train, indulged into criminal act within the meaning of Section 156 of the Act and hence the concept of liability or provisions of Section 124 -A would not apply. Learned advocate took the court through the relevant evidence and the applicable statutory provisions.
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