By: Kartik Kumar
The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Chandigarh has directed Northern Railway to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation for deficiency in service and Rs 5,100 as litigation cost to a passenger for failing to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons in a reserved compartment, which led to the theft of his two suitcases.
Balbir Singh, a resident of Sector 15, along with his family members, had booked tickets for a journey from New Delhi to Kolkata. On November 9, 2011, after the train left Patna, he realised that two of his suitcases, containing cash and jewellery amounting to Rs 1 lakh, had been stolen. At the next station, he reported the matter to Government Railway Police station (GRP), in Jhajha, Bihar, and registered an FIR.
Later, he approached the Northern Railway for compensation, but they declined, saying that they were under no obligation to provide the safety and security for the luggage of the passengers. Balbir Singh then filed a complaint in the consumer commission.
The railways argued that the commission had no territorial jurisdiction as the alleged theft occurred in Bihar. Besides, under Section 100 of the Railways Act, 1989, they were not responsible for the loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery of unbooked luggage. They alleged that the suitcases were stolen owing to the complainant’s “carelessness and negligence”.
Further, the railways said that the Consumer Protection Act did not apply to them, and it covered only paid facilities and not those which were free of cost. The complainant had neither booked the suitcases nor paid any charges for taking these with him.
However, the commission noted that since the theft occurred in a reserved compartment, it was obvious that some intruder had entered the compartment. There was a failure on the part of the TTE to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons during the night, which was a gross dereliction of duty, resulting in deficiency in service on the part of the railways.
As the loss was due to the negligence or misconduct on the part of its employee, the railways is liable for deficiency in service, said the commission, and ordered the Northern Railway to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation for deficiency in service and for causing physical and mental harassment as well as Rs 5,100 as litigation costs to the passenger, with 12 per cent interest.