The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has initiated a Preliminary Enquiry into alleged irregularities detected last year in awarding compensation to victims of train accidents by the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) in Patna. In a letter to the Additional Registrar of the RCT, Patna, the Anti-Corruption Branch of the CBI on Wednesday sought original documents pertaining to claims case files in 64 cases related to this matter.
The irregularities, detected first by the Principal Bench of the RCT in Delhi in an internal probe, pointed to a “scam” of around Rs 50 crore. The then judge of the tribunal, R K Mittal, was alleged to be at its centre. A group of lawyers in Patna, who represented the claimants in most of the cases under the scanner, is also mentioned in the internal probe.
While Mittal has claimed innocence, he was first transferred to the Ranchi Bench and then to the Ernakulum Bench of the RCT before being suspended. Currently, he is facing an inquiry under Supreme Court Judge U U Lalit, instated by the Chief Justice of India for “misbehaviour”.
The Railway Board had referred the matter to the CBI because the anatomy of the irregularities indicated involvement of several parties outside the purview of an in-house probe by the Railways. Sources said the CBI will look into the possible criminal conduct of officials of local banks where accounts were opened in the name of claimants; railway officials concerned in East Central Railway, lawyers and even other RCT officials.
As per findings of the internal probe of the RCT, scrutiny of nearly 1,000 orders awarding compensation to victims by the RCT in Patna threw up “disturbing evidence” of alleged irregularities in disbursement of around Rs 50 crore between 2015 and 2017. The probe indicated double filing — and award — of claims for the same accident; a sudden spike in rate of disbursal of claims and the like. It has also been alleged that Mittal ordered an unusually high rate of interest over and above the claim amount. Mittal has denied the allegations.
In case of death in a train accident, the passenger’s family gets Rs 8 lakh. It’s the same in case of permanent disability due to accident or what is defined as “untoward incident” in the Act, like falling off a moving train, etc. Thereafter, there are 36 categories of injuries on the basis of which compensation claims are awarded by the tribunal.