THE RAILWAY Claims Tribunal will make special arrangements to expedite the hearing on the compensation claims of the Elphinstone Road stampede victims. The registrar of the Tribunal said as there was already a bench in Mumbai, as and when claims are filed by the injured or the kin of the 23 who died in the stampede on September 29, the hearings will be expedited.
Currently, there is a single bench at the Tribunal in Mumbai, which has jurisdiction over 16 districts in the state. A second bench for the region was sanctioned in July by the Ministry of Railways but it is yet to become operational. With over 6,000 cases pending and a disposal rate of around 100 cases a month, the Tribunal is hearing claims dating back to 2011. “As the stampede was an unusual incident, special arrangements will be made for the victims.
Mumbai already has a functioning bench, which will be directed to hear the cases on a priority basis over other pending cases. If required, we will also give directions for holding a circuit court, where another bench will be called to Mumbai for a temporary basis to hear the claims,” said Registrar K P Yadav. He said a similar arrangement was made for victims of the serial train blasts on July 11, 2006. He added that directions could be given to hear the cases at a stretch since the claims will be similar in nature in terms of the occurrence of the incident.
The Tribunal is an adjudicating authority that inquires into claims against the railway administration for any loss or for compensation for death or injury to passengers. After a claim is filed, notices are issued to the railway concerned. For example, since the stampede has occurred in the jurisdiction of the Western Railway, once a claim is filed, a notice will be sent to the WR.
Yadav said as per the jurisdiction defined for the Tribunal under the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, it can decide on compensation in case of railway accidents or untoward incidents. “The untoward incidents include dacoity, robbery, violent attacks or terror attacks. Stampede is not categorically included in it. It will be seen on a case-to-case basis during the trial as to who was a bonafide passenger to decide on compensation. If WR does not contest the claim, we will decide on the compensation.
If it does, then as per the process, each claim will be verified,” Yadav said. Similar compensation through the tribunal was granted to victims of a stampede in Delhi in 2004, Yadav said. Five persons had died and 10 others were injured in the stampede on a foot overbridge. He said it was the responsibility of the railways to ensure safety of passengers. “The FOB, if used by others who are not railway passengers, are not entitled to compensation.”