11 Sep 2023 6:45 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court recently upheld an award of compensation of Rs. 51,000 to the mother of a 24-year-old man who died in a railway accident 44 years ago involving the collision of a truck and a train engine.Justice PK Chavan observed that the accident was caused due to the negligence of railway staff.“It is clearly an act of negligence on the part of the employees of the appellants as...
The Bombay High Court recently upheld an award of compensation of Rs. 51,000 to the mother of a 24-year-old man who died in a railway accident 44 years ago involving the collision of a truck and a train engine.
Justice PK Chavan observed that the accident was caused due to the negligence of railway staff.
“It is clearly an act of negligence on the part of the employees of the appellants as it appears from the evidence that there was no proper communication between the switchman and the gateman as well as by the concerned Railway station. Had there been proper communication, there would have been an advance intimation to the gateman about passing of the engine”, the court observed.
The court dismissed an appeal filed by the Central Railway and the Union of India who were found jointly and severally liable to pay the compensation to the mother of the deceased.
On January 24, 1979, the deceased Maheboob, was traveling as a cleaner in a truck transporting sugarcane from a field. While crossing a railway level crossing gate located between Nashik Road and Odha Railway Station, the truck collided with a train engine going in a reverse manner. Maheboob succumbed to his injuries two years later.
Umraobi, his mother, alleged that the accident resulted from the negligence of the railway employees. She claimed that there were no indications given by railway staff at the level crossing gate to warn traffic, particularly the truck driver, about the approaching train. She further contended that the railway engine was being driven recklessly and negligently. She argued that the gatekeeper was not informed about the passing train and did not give a cautionary order to the engine driver to stop before reaching the gate.
The Central Railway denied the plaintiff's claims. It argued that the accident occurred due to the truck driver's negligence, who entered the railway level crossing gate despite preventive signals from the gatekeeper. It also contended that the truck driver did not possess a valid driving license.
The civil court held that Umraobi was entitled to compensation of Rs. 51,000/-. Hence the present appeal.
Before the trial court, Sadanand Raje, a Divisional Engineer at the time of the accident, testified that the railway route where the accident took place was a super-fast track. He also admitted that there was no signal provided at the crossing gate in Odha, and the train drivers had no indication of whether the gate was open or closed. He further confirmed that the engine did not have a headlight at the tender end and that only one buffer light out of two was working.
Raje further admitted that in case of any obstruction on the level crossing, gatekeeper has to show red light signal indicating that line is not clear, and the gateman at the time of the accident did not show any such signal to the railway engine.
Pandurang Kisan Kale, a Switchman on duty at Nashik Road cabin at the time of the incident testified that that he did not give line clearance to the pilot of the train engine.
Ramchandra Nana Barve, the gateman at the crossing at the time of the accident testified that he had telephonic communication with the Nashik Road cabin and was informed that no train was coming. He opened one side of the gate, but when the train came, he shouted and showed a red lantern to the truck driver, signalling him to stop. However, the truck did not stop, and the accident occurred.
The HC observed that the engine driver neither blew the whistle nor provided any signal, both of which were essential safety measures before crossing a level crossing. The court also emphasized that it was equally incumbent on the gateman to show a red-light signal if there was any obstruction on the track.
The HC highlighted that the evidence presented during the trial indicated a lack of proper communication between the switchman and the gateman, as well as with the concerned Railway station. The HC said adding that several mandatory directions were not followed by the engine driver and the gateman.
The HC noted that the appellants had not provided any explanation as to why the engine suddenly approached when the gateman was unaware of its presence.
Thus, the HC dismissed the appeal and affirmed the trial court's judgment that the Union of India and the Central Railway were jointly and severally liable to pay compensation to the mother of the deceased.
Case no. – First Appeal No. 836 of 1995
Case Title – Union of India and Anr. v. Umraobi W/o Saiyed Munir and Ors.
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