Tamil Nadu

Footboard travel is done out of compulsion, says tribunal

The Railway Claims Tribunal, Chennai Bench, which took suo motu cognisance of the train accident at St. Thomas Mount railway station and awarded interim compensation to the victims, has held that passengers travelled on footboards of trains out of compulsion — and not by choice.

The bench comprising RCT Chairman Justice K. Kannan and Member (Technical) M. Sarjana Rao sought to award maximum compensation to the victims or their family members by taking the stand that the Railways Act, 1989, was enacted “for the purpose of speedy disposal and to ensure that compensations are released to parties without putting them through the tough rigmarole of long-drawn litigation”.

The order said, “We will observe that EMU (suburban) trains have no footboards and doors are not shut while the trains are in motion. The commuters themselves stand by the open door not by choice but by compulsion due to non-availability of seats and for the necessity to reach their offices by calls of duty.”

If death and injuries were admittedly of persons who were travelling in the train, there was surely evidence of the fact that they were passengers and in order to find eligibility pertaining to compensation, “we will only see whether they had lawful authority to travel as well. In a traumatic incident such as this, we will not be surprised if the train tickets were not available or not recovered from the bodies of the persons or the injured. To us, prima facie, there is proof available that they were passengers...”

The bench said that the RCT Act provided through Section 18 that the claims will not be bound by procedures laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code, but be guided by the principles of natural justice. Expeditious disposal was the hallmark set out in Section 18 (2) and the provisions of the Act would have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other law.

“Keeping in mind the purpose for which the Act has been made and to ensure that the benefit of compensation reaches the aggrieved families at the earliest without any pilferage, we take suo motu action...the incident has evoked deep public sympathy and serious issues of safety of passengers,” the bench said.

Compensation rules

Going by compensation rules, ₹8 lakh was prescribed for cases of death and varying amounts up to ₹8 lakh for injuries, depending upon their nature.

“In our view, the ends of justice will be served if ₹8 lakh each is deposited in cases of death...a sum of ₹2 lakh will be released immediately to the family of the deceased as an interim relief,” the order said.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 8:20:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/footboard-travel-is-done-out-of-compulsion-says-tribunal/article24548420.ece

Next Story