Eastern Railway Asked To Pay Rs1.10 Lakh to Passenger for Bag Theft
Moneylife Digital Team 25 June 2024
Upholding an order passed by the state commission, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed Eastern Railway to pay Rs1 lakh compensation and Rs10,000 litigation cost to a passenger, whose bag was stolen while travelling in the Howrah-Amritsar Mail.
 
In an order, the NCDRC bench of Dr Inder Jit Singh (presiding member) says, "The West Bengal state consumer disputes redressal commission also observes that police recovered one Samsung Galaxy mobile belonging to the complainant from one Vikash Kumar Paswan and there is nothing to show that Vikash Kumar Paswan was a bonafide passenger holding a valid reserved ticket, it thus nullifies the contentions of the railway official that no un-authorised person entered the coaches manned by him while he was on duty. The state commission has appropriately addressed various contentions of the Railways and we are in agreement with its observations and findings and find no reason to interfere with the same."
 
The case is related to Kolkata-based Naushad Khan, who was travelling with his family in the Howrah-Amritsar Mail on a reserved ticket. At the midnight of 19th September and 20 September 2014, when the train reached near Joshidi, he found that one of his three bags was missing. He started searching for the bag, which he claimed contained gold ornaments worth Rs1.40 lakh, four mobile sets, Rs7,000 in cash and some other materials. However, he did not find either any TTE (travelling ticket examiner) or RPF (railway protection force) on duty in the compartment. He lodged a complaint with the government railway police (GRP) at Buxar station on 20 September 2014. As no positive result emerged from it, he filed a complaint before unit II of the Kolkata district consumer disputes redressal forum.
 
While allowing the complaint on 19 April 2016, the district forum directed Eastern Railways to pay Rs2 lakh as compensation for the loss of valuable jewellery and other goods, and for causing mental pain, agony, harassment and for the negligent and deficient manner of service rendered to Mr Khan.
 
Aggrieved by the district forum's order, Eastern Railways filed an appeal before the state commission. While partly allowing the complaint, the state commission, on 28 July 2017, directed Eastern Railways to pay Rs1 lakh as compensation and Rs10,000 litigation cost to Mr Khan.
 
Eastern Railway then approached NCDRC, contending that both the district forum and state commission exceeded their territorial jurisdiction since the place of incident was outside the territorial jurisdiction of both the fora below.  
 
Further, it argued that the fora below failed to appreciate that the allegations about the theft of luggage is a subject matter of criminal offence to be investigated by the state GRP. "There is no deficiency of service as alleged by Mr Khan and, hence, the orders of the state commission as well as the district forum are liable to be set aside," the counsel for Eastern Railways says.
 
It also contended that section 100 of the Railways Act, 1989 contemplates that the Railways cannot be held responsible for the theft of passengers' luggage unless and until the same is booked with the Railway authority.
 
The counsel for Mr Khan contended that once he detected the loss, he frantically searched for the TTE or RPF personnel in the compartment to get due assistance and nab the culprit. However, none of them was present in the compartment. Mr Khan was advised to get down at the Joshidi station and lodge a complaint. 
 
"At that point of time Mr Khan did not feel safe to leave his family and go to the station superintendent to lodge a complaint of the stolen bag because at Joshidi station, the train halted only for five minutes. So he lodged the complaint at Buaxar Station on 20 September 2014 and GRP of Bauxar forwarded the complaint to Joshidi. From the date of lodging the complaint, no effective steps were taken either by Joshidi station or Bauxar station," the counsel submitted.
 
After carefully going through the orders of the state commission, district forum and other relevant records, the NCDRC bench observed that, as regards deficiency in service on the part of the Railways, there are concurrent findings of both the fora below, although the state commission modified the orders of the district forum concerning the quantum of compensation.
 
It says, "Before the state commission also, the Railways denied the fact that TTE or RPF was not present in the compartment as alleged by Mr Khan. However, the state commission, after considering the facts of the case and evidence before it, did not accept such contentions of the Railways."
 
While dismissing the revision petition, NCDRC directed Eastern Railway to pay Rs1 lakh as compensation and Rs10,000 litigation cost to Mr Khan.
 
(Revision Petition No3332 of 2017  Date: 11 June 2024)
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