The High Court of Punjab and Haryana directed the Railway to pay Rs. 8,00,000/- to the heirs of the victim of an 'Untoward Railway Incident', as compensation along with interest @ 9% per annum, despite non-recovery of a valid ticket.
The appeal was filed by sons of the deceased one Somnath through Advocate Somesh Gupta aggrieved by order of the Railway Claims Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench, dismissing their claim application under Section 16 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 (the Act).
The deceased was allegedly travelling on an unreserved ticket (General Class Ticket) and had an accidental fall from the concerned train leading to immediate death. The appellants thus sought compensation of Rs.6,00,000/- under Section 16 of the Act in appeal titled "Rakesh Kumar & Ors. v. Union of India".
Advocate Sandeep Suri, appearing for Railways, contested the appeal taking preliminary objections that the alleged incident was not covered under the ambit of an 'Untoward Railway Incident' as defined in Section 123(c) of the Railway Act, 1989
It was submitted that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger since no ticket was found on the body of the deceased. In fact even if they were to assume that that his ticket was lost in the unfortunate incident, the General Class Ticket would not have been valid since the concerned train was fully reserved, not having any general compartment and no Excess Fare Ticket (EFT) was issued in favour of the deceased. Thus he was not be covered under Section 123 (c) of the Act.
Dismissing the Railways' contention, Justice Dr. Ravi Ranjan opined that merely not finding a ticket on body of deceased would not be sufficient to prove that the deceased was a ticketless passenger. Reliance was placed on Union of India v. Rina Devi, 2018 (3) R.C.R. (Civil) 40.
Thus the main question which was to be considered at this juncture was whether a person having unreserved ticket (General Class Ticket) could have boarded a fully reserved train. The court relied on ruling in Union of India, through the General Manager, East Central Railway, Hazipur v. Rani Devi & Ors., 2016(4) PLSR 177, wherein in the aforesaid circumstances, it was held that "on that basis that the person was not travelling in the class for which he was having the ticket, it cannot be construed that in such a situation, claimants would not be entitled for compensation as excess fare amount could have easily been recovered by the railway authorities".
Admittedly, there was no meeting between the deceased and Deputy Chief Inspector of Tickets or TTE. However, the court said that "even if the deceased was not having a proper ticket, the balance amount could have been recovered by the aforesaid railway authorities had they met the deceased in the train. Thus, merely because they did not issue the EFT, it cannot be held that the deceased was a ticket-less passenger". In these circumstances, the court held that the deceased was a bonafide passenger and the appellants were entitled to be compensated to the tune of Rs.8,00,000/- as compensation along with interest @ 9% per annum to be calculated from the date of passing of the present order till the date of its realization.
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