The Bombay High Court last Friday allowed an appeal against the order of the Railway Claims Tribunal, Nagpur and directed Central railways to pay Rs.8 lakh as compensation to the family of one Arjun Gawande who died while alighting from a train at Badnera station.
Justice MG Giratkar of the Nagpur bench relied on Supreme Court and Bombay High Court judgements cited by the appellant's counsel RG Bagul and held that even though the deceased boarded the wrong train which did not have a stoppage at Badnera station, the Tribunal's finding that the deceased responsible for his own death was not sustainable.
Legal heirs of the deceased filed a claim petition before the Tribunal. Tribunal rejected the claim on the grounds that deceased purchased tickets from Akola to Murtizapur and Akola to Shegaon for a general train, but he boarded Bhuwaneshwar Express from Kurla instead, which was not a general train and did not have any stoppage at Badnera or at Murtizapur. Therefore, the deceased alighted at Railway Station Badnera where there was no stoppage and died due to his own negligence, the Tribunal concluded.
Advocate NP Lambat appeared for Central Railway and RS Bagul for the appellants.
Lambat submitted that the deceased knew that there was no stoppage at Badnera or at Murtizapur. He intentionally purchased two tickets so that he may alight at Murtizapur or at Badnera. There was no stoppage at Badnera even though the deceased alighted at Badnera and, therefore, it was not an untoward incident as defined under Section 123(c) of the Railways Act, 1989. He further submitted that Railway has discharged its burden as per exceptions carved out under proviso (a) to (e) of Section 124A of the Act, and, therefore, railway is not liable to pay any compensation.
On the other hand, Bagul relied upon the following judgements in support of the appellant's case-
Apex Court in the case of Jameela & Ors. Vs. Union of India reported in 2010 AIR (SC) 3705, has held that:
"When deceased died while alighting the train due to his own negligence, it is not a criminal act and, therefore, Railway cannot deny it liability."
In Union of India Vs. Prabhakaran Vijaya Kumar & Others reported in 2008(5) ALL MR 917, Supreme Court held-
"Section 124A of the Railways Act, 1989 casts strict liability on the Railway even the deceased died due to his own fault. Then also, Railway is liable to pay amount of compensation."
In the case of Union of India Vs. Rina Devi reported in 2018 AIR (SC) 2362, the Apex Court has held that:
"Death or injury in course of boarding or de-boarding train will be "untoward incident". Victim will be entitled to compensation and will not fall under proviso to Section 124A merely on plea of negligence of victim as contributing factor."
In the case of Union of India Vs. Anuradha and another reported in 2014 ACJ 856, Bombay High Court held:
"Even the deceased boarded in a wrong train having a valid journey ticket and died while alighting the train that does not mean that he was not a bona fide passenger and on that ground claim cannot be rejected."
Thus, in view of the above judgments, the bench noted that the Tribunal's reasoning that deceased boarded in a wrong train and died due to his own fault/negligence is not sustainable.
The said appeal was allowed and Railways was directed to pay the appellants Rs.8 lakh within twelve weeks of the order.