The Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT), Chennai Bench, has ordered Southern Railway to pay compensation of Rs.4 lakh to a minor girl who had miraculously survived a fall through the emergency window of a running train but lost her left hand in the mishap.

C. Sree Dharani (7) of Vellalur, Coimbatore, along with her mother Sulochana had travelled on November 8, 2011, from Wallajah Road to Coimbatore by West Coast Express. During the journey, she had accidentally fallen through the emergency window between Erode and Thottipalayam stations due to the jerks of the train. She was taken to a private hospital with grievous injuries. Her left hand was amputated. The present application was filed on her behalf by her father Chandrasekaran seeking compensation from the Railway.

Arguing that the injury was self-inflicted, the Railway said it was not liable for any compensation. The Divisional Railway Manager’s report said the girl was playing near the emergency window which was open and the mother did not close it. She failed to take care of the child during the journey. The Railway also said no ticket was purchased for the minor. Hence she was not a bona fide passenger.

In her deposition, the mother said that her daughter was sitting in her lap but suddenly she got up and fell down from the train and she did not know how it happened. She was also not aware whether the emergency glass window was closed or not. According to her, the alarm chain was pulled after the fall and train was stopped.

Rejecting the Railway’s stand, the Bench comprising Vice-Chairman G.K. Chaturvedi and Member D.K. Chakma said, “The mother should have taken care during the travel of her minor daughter, but for the fault on the part of the mother her minor daughter cannot be penalised.” Nor could the daughter be penalised for her mother’s failure to purchase a half-ticket. The Bench said the incident would attract Section 123(c)(2) of the Railways Act, 1989, which says the accident fall of a passenger from a train carrying passengers is an untoward incident that will attract compensation. The tribunal also said the minor girl could be treated as a bona fide passenger, as the ticket examiner had not objected to her travel. After perusing the medical documents, the Bench held the girl was entitled to maximum compensation of Rs.4lakh together with interest at 6 per cent.

The RCT also made clear that the Railway should not insist on opening of an account to the minor and should be sent to the guardian’s account.