Swathi’s parents seek compensation of ₹3 crore

The 24-year-old techie was hacked to death at the Nungambakkam Railway Station in Chennai on June 24, 2016.

Updated - November 07, 2017 06:23 pm IST

Published - November 07, 2017 01:00 am IST - CHENNAI

S. Swathi

S. Swathi

The Madras High Court on Monday directed its Registry to take on file a writ petition filed by the parents of S. Swathi, in Chennai on June 24 last year, seeking a compensation of ₹3 crore from the Southern Railway.

Allowing the appeal preferred jointly by A. Ranganayaki and K. Santhanagopalakrishnan, a Division Bench of Justices K.K. Sasidharan and P. Velmurugan came down heavily on the Registry for refusing to number their petition on the ground of availability of alternative remedy.

“The Registry, by returning the writ petition on the ground of maintainability, virtually acted as the court and exercised judicial function. It has no authority to reject the writ petition on the ground of availability of alternative remedy. It is for the court to decide whether the writ petition should be entertained in a matter in spite of alternative remedy. It is always open to the court to entertain the writ petition notwithstanding the alternative remedy available to the party. We, therefore, hold that it is not within the province of the Registry to return the writ petition on the ground of alternative remedy,” the Division Bench observed.

 

Holding that a single judge of the High Court was also not right in accepting the refusal of the Registry to number the writ petition, the Bench pointed out that the petitioners could be asked to avail the alternative remedy of approaching the Railways Claims Tribunal only if they had claimed a compensation of less than ₹8 lakh. “There is no point in directing the appellants to approach the Railway Claims Tribunal. The Tribunal is empowered to take up cases where the claim is less than ₹8 lakh. The appellants have claimed a sum of ₹3 crore. It would, therefore, not be possible for the appellants to file a claim petition before the Railway Claims Tribunal,” the Bench said.

Public law

Authoring the judgment of the Bench, Mr. Justice Sasidharan said: “There is a clear distinction between ‘public law’ and ‘private law.’ It is the dispute between the citizen on the one hand and the State or other public bodies on the other, which is resolved in a dispute filed under public law.

“Public law claim is entertained to maintain the rule of law and to prevent the State or public bodies from acting in an arbitrary manner or in violation of the rule. It is always open to the constitutional court to examine the actions of the State if they pertain to the public law domain. Similarly, the court would refrain from examining the action if they pertain to the field of private law.”

He also recalled that the Supreme Court, while dealing with a case related to compensation for a foreign national, who was gang-raped by employees of the Eastern Railway at the Yatri Niwas in the Howrah Railway Station, had held that even contractual matters would be amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.

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