For the first time, a judge of the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) has been removed after a Supreme Court probe into fraudulent claims to the tune of over Rs 50 crore. President Ram Nath Kovind accepted findings of the probe and ordered the judge’s removal on Thursday.
The probe by Justice U U Lalit found R K Mittal, judge of RCT’s Ernakulam bench, guilty of misbehaviour. The case related to award of compensation claims to fictitious beneficiaries when Mittal headed the Patna bench of RCT. The matter had also been referred to the CBI as multiple parties outside the railway system were alleged to be involved in a fake claims racket that was termed the “RCT scam”.
Reported first in The Indian Express in 2018, the Principal Bench of the RCT had sniffed out the irregularities by examining claims records of Patna dating back to several years that were awarded by Mittal as the judge.
As per findings of the internal probe of the RCT, scrutiny of nearly 1,000 orders awarding compensation to victims 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 and a sudden spike in the rate of disbursal of claims and the like. It was also alleged that Mittal ordered an unusually high rate of interest over and above the claim amount. Mittal denied the allegations.
A probe by the Principal Bench had alleged that Mittal had been in connivance with a few lawyers in Patna.
This is the first time a serving judge of the RCT has been removed after due process relating to the definition of “misbehaviour” enshrined in the RCT Act.
The Railway Board, upon recommendations of the Tribunal, had suspended Mittal from service pending the outcome of the probe. Mittal was formally chargesheeted in December 2018. Since then, he had been defending himself. He was due to retire in August.
In case of death in a train accident, a passenger’s family gets Rs 8 lakh as compensation. It is 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.