By Muskan Goel
Published On: October 12, 2021 at 13:06 IST
As the name suggests, it was specifically made to work on determining claims against the railway administration for losses, damages, non-delivery of goods etc. Users can avail the facility to access case list, judgments etc. Majority of states in India have the tribunal benches for settling claims of their users.
Despite, having around 20 tribunal benches, there is still a lack and deficiency in the facilities provided to the people throughout the country. In this article we shall also examine various case laws that have already been decided by the Railway Claims Tribunal.
What is meant by Railway Claims Tribunal?
The administration of railways is not limited to only the running of trains but also includes loss/damage of goods of a passenger, thefts, railway accidents causing death/injury to a passenger etc. The Railway Claims Tribunal was specifically made to work on determining claims against the railway administration for losses, damages, non-delivery of goods etc. Users can avail the facility to access case list, judgments etc.
It is considered to be a representative of Union of India and is expected to work with utmost care and caution. It came in force after the enactment of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987. Earlier the Railway Claims Tribunal was known as Claims Tribunal, and was later renamed as the Railway Claims Tribunal after the enactment of the Railways Act, 1989.
What was the need for setting up the Railway Claims Tribunals?
Before the enactment of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, people didn’t know in which court the application for loss of goods or death/injury of a person due to railway accidents etc., must be filed. In order to ease the burden on the courts, the railway claims tribunals were set up, after which all the cases relating to loss or damage of goods, death or injury of people/passengers due to railway accidents were filed in the tribunals.
The benefits of setting up the tribunals were that firstly the cases were decided in a better and efficient manner along with that the burden upon the courts to decide cases relating to railway accidents or loss of goods, was reduced.
Where the benches of Railway Claims Tribunal are located pan-India?
- Delhi (principle bench)
How does the Railway Claims Tribunals work?
There are separate forms of application for different matters. For e.g.: there is one separate application form for the loss of goods in the railways, another form for death/injury of a person due to railway accidents.
According to Section 5 of the Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989, the applications must be filed and first presented in the office of the Registrar or the Additional Registrar or the Assistant Registrar, as the case may be, of the Bench so concerned.
Section 7 of the Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989, mentions the list of documents to accompany the application. For e.g.: original sale invoice, copy of railway receipt/parcel way bill/luggage ticket etc.
The central government formulated the Railway Accident (Compensation) Rules, 1990[ii], according to which the maximum limit of compensation was to be Rs. 8 Lakh.
Chairman and his powers
The chairman is considered to be the head of the Railway Claims Tribunalbenches throughout India. He is elected for a term of 5 years and simultaneously acts as the judge in case proceedings falling under the Railway Claims Tribunal. As mentioned in Section 11 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, the chairman has the power to exercise such financial and administrative powers as vested to him under The Railways Claims Tribunal (Financial And Administrative Powers) Rules, 1989[iii].
As per Section 4(3) of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act (1987), the chairman has the power to transfer and authorise any member of the particular bench to which he holds the office. He may also transfer the vice-chairman or any other member from one bench to another.
According to Section 18 of The Railway Claims Tribunal Act (1987), the tribunals are not bound by the procedures laid down by the Code Of Civil Procedure (1908), but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice, that is justice, equity and good conscience.
Also, Section 18(3) of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act (1987), mentions that the tribunals shall have same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code Of Civil Procedure (1908)[iv], for deciding the cases falling under its jurisdiction.
- Abhinandan Vs Union Of India[v] –
Bonafide passenger and the injuries suffered during the journey were self-inflicted
The appellant had to board the train to Delhi from Gurgaon Railway Station, but when he set his foot in the train, the train started moving, and on account of overcrowding in the bogie, the appellant fell down and got injured. He was taken to the nearby hospital where it was diagnosed that he had suffered amputation in both his legs. The appellant claimed that he was a bonafide passenger travelling on a valid ticket. The appeal was made under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987.
The respondents contested the petition on the grounds that the appellant was not a bonafide passenger and that the injuries suffered were self-inflicted.
The Delhi High Court was hearing to the appeal, and it observed that the appellant was not a bonafide passenger and at the time of the accident he was intoxicated and as per the proviso of provision of Section 124A of the Act, no compensation would be awarded if the person was in state of intoxication.
- Bibi Nasrin Vs NFRLY[vi]
Lack of sufficient proof
The applicant is the wife of the deceased Md. Chulhai, pleaded that her husband had died because of an ‘untoward accident’ that took place in the train while he was travelling from Kusiar Gaon to Delhi. The appellant claimed that her husband fell down because of rush in the train and sustained multiple injuries and eventually he died. She also seeks compensation from the railways and had sufficient proofs to support her appeal. The respondents however contended her claim.
It was evident that the respondents lacked sufficient proofs for contending the appellants’ appeal. Therefore, the decision was held in favour of the appellant and she was awarded compensation from the respondents.
- Mrs. Bharathi and others Vs GM southern railway[vii]
Passenger had been wounded due to his own negligence
The appellant is the wife of the deceased named Krishnamoorthy, who was travelling in train from Thanjavur to Kozhikode, and died by falling down from the train. The appellant claimed that her husband died due to the negligence on the part of the railways and that she seeks compensation. The respondent contended the claim of negligence on the part of the railways and pleaded that the passenger fell down due to his own negligence.
The decision was held in the favour of the respondent as it was revealed through enquiries that the passenger had fallen down due to his own negligence and the railways was not negligent on their part. As mentioned in the proviso of provision of Section 124A of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act 1987, no compensation is to be made if the passenger died due to self-inflicted injuries.
- Jameela & Others Vs Union of India[viii]
M. Hafeez, the husband of appellant no.1 died in between the journey from Ahmedabad to Lucknow by Awadh Express. The corpse was found lying on the railway tracks at Magarwara Railway Station. It was claimed by the appellant, wife of the deceased, that he was a bonafide passenger with a valid ticket, and that he had died due to the negligence on the part of the railways for which she demanded compensation. The railways had however, contended the part of negligence and claimed that the deceased died due to their own negligence.
The appeals were made from the tribunal to high court and then to the Supreme Court, which eventually decided the case in the favour of the appellant and she was awarded the demanded compensation.
- Shyam Narayan & Ors. Vs Union Of India[ix]\
Deceased had died because of his own criminal act of boarding a speeding train
The deceased Sh. Manoj was going from Kharawar to Daya Basti, it is pleaded that the deceased had boarded the train but due to overcrowding and jerk in the train he fell down and received fatal injuries for which they sought compensation. The respondent claimed that the deceased did fall down but because of his own criminal act as he tried to board a speeding train.
The decision was held in favour of the respondents as it was observed that the deceased had died due to his own criminal act of boarding a speeding train. As per the proviso of the provision of Section 124A, of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act 1987, no compensation is to be provided if the person died due to his own criminal act, self-inflicted injuries, suicide etc.
The Railway Claims Tribunals were set up to ease the burden of the courts and make the judgements quicker and more efficient for the people/passengers, which it undoubtedly has fulfilled. People have started to build faith in the judicial system as their cases are decided in lesser time than before. Despite all the loopholes, the Railway Claims Tribunal has proved itself and has gained popularity among the people.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: RCT.GOV.IN
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Muskan Goel is a student of BA.LLB at Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies (VSLLS, VIPS). She believes that hard work is necessary for success but smart work is the ultimate mantra for success. She readily adjusts according to the environment and always strives for perfection. She also believes that everyday brings a new opportunity for her to learn new things.
Edited by: Aashima Kakkar, Associate Editor, Law Insider
[ii] Railway Accident (Compensation) Rules, 1990
[iii] Railways Claims Tribunal (Financial and Administrative Powers) Rules, 1989
[iv] Code of Civil Procedure, 1908: Act 5 of 1908
[v] Abhinandan Vs Union Of India 19 July, 2017 (FAO No. 16/2016)
[vi] Mrs. Bharathi and others Vs GM southern railway OA (II u)/MAS/160/2017
[vii] Bibi Nasrin Vs NFRLY OA(II u)/PNBE/2006/0210
[viii] Jameela & Others Vs Union of India (2010) 12 SCC 443
[ix] Shyam Narayan & Ors Vs Union Of India 31 May, 2017 FAO No.562/2016