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Delhi high court asks railways to set up a mediation policy after deciding 30 years accident claim

INTRODUCTION:

Recently, the Delhi High Court suggested forming a “Litigation Policy” by the Railways to address tortuous claims of compensation filed against it. The Court said that the whole purpose of granting compensation to the victim is defeated if the amount do not become available immediately. Due to lengthy court process and transferring of case from one court to another the justice is delayed prolonged.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

In one of the recent cases, the plaintiff (victim) named Tilak Raj Singh was travelling from Meerut to Ludhiana which proved to be a very long one. An unfortunate incident occurred 30 years ago and since then the victim was running from pillar to post, seeking compensation, after having had his left leg amputated in a train accident.

After the accident had taken place, the victim had approached the District Court at Meerut seeking damages/compensation. However, his case  was returned after 12 years for want of jurisdiction by the Meerut District Court. Thereafter, he approached the Railways Claims Tribunal, unfortunately the RCT also dismissed his Petition (case) stating that the incident had taken place after the enactment of the Railways Act, 1989 thus that the case doesn’t fall in the purview of the RCT and the same was to be tried by a Civil Court of competent jurisdiction and not by the RCT.
The suit was then shuttled back to the District Judge, Meerut who declined to accept the case saying that the RCT was not competent to transfer the case to it. Frustrated with the same, the victim then filed suit before the Delhi High Court on 1st October, 2008 however, a learned Single Judge rejected his case stating the suit was barred by limitation means the time to file the case had expired. Thereafter, the victim challenged this in appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi which held that the period during which the suit remained pending before the Civil Judge, Meerut and RCT should be excluded and proceeded to trial.
Due to the increase in the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court, the suit was transferred to the District and Sessions Judge, Patiala House Court where the victim was finally given a compensation of Rs. 6.6 lakhs which was challenged by the Centre before the Delhi High Court.

ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS OF THE COURT:

After perusing the documents on records, the Court said that there is no doubt that the Railways are liable for breach of duty for not providing the standard of care required. The immediate first aid was not provided to the victim and it led to loss of blood and an injury which was life threatening, as is clear from the report of the Doctor who saw the victim at the Muzzafarnagar District Hospital.

The Court observed that as the incident took place prior to the enactment of the Railways Act, and the RCT has already rejected the petition of the victim for compensation, the determination of damages/compensation would be governed by the general law of torts and damages and not by the Railways Act. The Court further analysed the case and stated that the victim has been deprived of any compensation for over 30 years and thus enhanced the compensation amount to Rs. 9 lakhs along with simple interest @ 8% for the entire period from filing of the suit before the District Judge Meerut till date of decree.

CONCLUSION

While concluding, the Court stated that the journey of this litigation has shown that the victim was entangled for the want of jurisdiction both before the Civil Judge Meerut and the RCT. An organisation such as the Railways which is located across the length and breadth of the country should not delay cases of compensation in this manner. The whole purpose of granting compensation is defeated if the amount is not available to the victim immediately.

The Court suggested the Railways to adopt a `Litigation policy’ to deal with cases when tortuous claims for compensation are filed against them. In such cases, compulsory pre-litigation mediation can also be explored to bring about an early settlement. Such a step would reduce the costs for the Railways as also reduce the number of cases filed, and finally ensure timely and efficient payment of compensation. By adopting this practice, the victim will not suffer through the prolonged justice system.

ADVICE FROM VOICE:

Accident is one of the most common incidents which keep happening in Railways due to lack of caution and sometimes lack of negligence. The passengers should know about their rights as to where to claim for compensation etc. to avoid prolonged delay in getting justice. Had the victim in above case filed the claim in competent jurisdiction, there would not have been undue delay in seeking compensation.
Consumer VOICE HelpDesk gives guidance and advice to aggrieved consumer in consumer disputes of a wide range. For details kindly click on the link: https://www.consumer-voice.org/legal-helpdesk/

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