The Delhi High Court on Tuesday lambasted the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for not putting in place systems to ensure safe and secure travel of commuters, especially women and children. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri censured DMRC when its officials failed to answer queries on what mechanisms it had set up for harassed passengers, particularly women, seeking assistance. The officials, including the executive director of operations of DMRC, could not answer what measures had been taken against men who entered coaches reserved for women, and whether the moves had acted as a deterrent.
“Since you are unable to answer our queries straight away it appears there are no systems in place for the safety of women, aged and infirm and children,” the bench said.
“Are we completely dehumanised? We might be better off with artificial intelligence,” it said, after the court was told that one of the station controllers of DMRC was not trained to address situations related to the safety of passengers, but was still holding the job.
“The fact that he is still on the job shows the level of concern you (DMRC) have for security and safety of passengers. Is this a joke to you,” it said.
The court said DMRC was “putting the lives of citizens at stake by allowing this person to continue on the job”.
“Nearly 30 lakh commuters, or at least some of them, would travel at the mercy of this station controller. It is a peril. We are truly horrified. Please understand the ramifications,” it said.
It directed the DMRC, police, CISF and the Transport department to work in tandem to ensure all areas of passenger safety and security were covered.
It also suggested putting CCTV cameras and giving live video feed in all the coaches to keep track of any passenger distress as well as flashing of pictures of missing persons on screens at the entry/exit gates immediately after information on such an incident was received.
The court’s strong observations came while hearing a habeas corpus plea initiated by it based on a news report that a 19-year-old woman with a speech and hearing impairment had gone missing on April 21 after getting separated from her family and alighting at the wrong metro station.
The woman was found on July 17 wandering in the Rewari district of Haryana by a policeman who took her to a Child Welfare Committee, where she was given shelter before she was united with her family.
The court said when the Adarsh Nagar metro station got the information about the woman being separated from her family at the Jahangirpur metro station, the station controller rushed to the platform and went past her thrice, without noticing her walking up and down the vacant platform.
The woman had got off the train tailgating another commuter, which was seen on CCTV footage. But the station controller failed to notice that and also did not call the police, the bench said.
The visibly displeased judges said the official was “thoroughly incapable and incompetent” and asked the DMRC if it was prudent to keep on duty a person who thrice ran past the woman in distress, and did not even notice her.
“The woman was the sole person on the platform and he did not see her. What did he do? He went for lunch, we presume. What we see here is criminal negligence (on the part of the station controller) and lackadaisical approach of the DMRC,” it said.
The court observed that because the station controller had not seen her or notified the police immediately, the woman went missing and was traced only after three months.
“Can you imagine the trauma her family and she went through,” it asked DMRC officials present in the court.
When DMRC officials said they would take action against the station controller, the court said, “You take action only after leaving the court. You shut the doors after the horses have bolted.”
The bench asked the authorities to hold a meeting and come out with a draft standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure such incidents did not recur.
It said the SOPs would have to anticipate and accommodate all the situations that might have an impact on the safety and security of commuters.
“Citizens need to feel they have a caring DMRC looking after them,” the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on September 18.