RPF investigators can now register a case under the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act and commence inquiry upon receipt of information itself

Railway Protection Force (RPF) officers have been vested with more powers in respect of investigation of cases relating to theft of railway property or its unlawful possession consequent to the amendments in the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act.

The striking feature of the amended Act is that it has empowered RPF investigators to register a case under the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act and commence inquiry upon receipt of information itself.

This is the first time that the Act has been amended after it was enacted by the Parliament and came into force in 1966.

Railway property, as per the Act, includes any goods, money or valuable security or animal, belonging to or in the charge or possession of railway administration.

Prior to the amendment, the RPF officers could register a case under the Act only after an arrest was made and start the inquiry thereafter.

RPF authorities here say Sections 3, 4 and 8 of the Act had been amended by introducing extra words in these three sections.

The crux of the amendment is that the inquiry officer need not wait till the arrest of a person.

The officers have now been empowered to register a case and begin inquiry upon receiving information about the commission of an offence punishable under the Act even without or before the arrest.

The sources of information includes oral complaints, those in writing, reports from railway officials, telephone messages, petitions, press reports and those given by secret sources.

In addition to protecting and safeguarding railway property, passenger area and passengers, the RPF has also been vested with the responsibility of escorting passenger trains and providing access control, regulation and general security on platforms, passenger and circulating areas.

Power to investigate

They have been vested with the powers to investigate cases booked under the Railway Act and the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act.

Even after the amendment, the inquiry officer has the authority to register a case after an arrest is made.

This power has not been taken away by the amendment; a senior RPF officer here said adding that it had given additional powers to the inquiry officer in respect of registration of a case under the Act for better investigation and prosecution.

The number of cases booked under the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act in Tiruchi Railway Division was 49 from January to October this year. The number of those arrested was 58 and the value of the stolen property recovered was Rs.74,205.

The cases booked in 2011 (January to December) was 70 with the number of arrested persons being 93. The value of the stolen property recovered was Rs.1.54 lakh, say the authorities.