In such cases, Railways must pay compensation

The Railways is liable to pay compensation regardless of the negligence on the part of a passenger who falls to death while standing on the footboard of a train, the Supreme Court has held.

Interpreting Section 124 A of the Railways Act, 1989, dealing with the liability of the administration for death and injury to passengers due to accidents, a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha said: “Whether or not there has been any wrongful act, neglect or default on the part of the railway administration would entitle a passenger who has been injured, or the dependant of a passenger who has been killed, to maintain action to recover damages.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Alam said the Railways would be liable to pay compensation as prescribed. However, no compensation was payable under this Section if the passenger “dies or suffers injuries due to suicide or attempted suicide ...; self-inflicted injury; his own criminal act; and any act committed by him in a state of intoxication or insanity.”

The Bench said: “Negligence of this kind which is not very uncommon on Indian trains is not the same as a criminal act as mentioned in this Section. A criminal act must have an element of malicious intent or mens rea. Standing at the open doors of the compartment of a running train may be a negligent act, even a rash act, but without anything else, it is certainly not a criminal act.”

Hafeez, husband of appellant Jameela was travelling by the Awadh Express on June 23, 1997, from Ahmedabad to Lucknow. During the journey, he fell down from the train near the Magarwara station and died. He had a valid ticket in his pocket. The Railway Claims Tribunal, Lucknow, awarded Rs. 2 lakh in compensation to the appellant. On an appeal from the Railways, the Allahabad High Court held that since the victim had died owing to his negligent act, the appellant was not entitled to any compensation. The present appeal is directed against this judgment.

Dismissing the appeal, the Bench pointed out that it was not the case of the Railways that the victim committed suicide. It was also not its case that he died owing to his own criminal act or he was in a state of intoxication or he was insane or he died of any natural cause or disease.

“Thus the case of the Railways must fail even after assuming everything is in its favour,” the Bench said, directing them to pay up the compensation of Rs. 2 lakh with interest and Rs. 30,000 in cost to the appellant.

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