May 10, 2018
Case name: Union of India v. Rina Devi
Date of Judgment: May 09, 2018
In this noteworthy case, the Railway Tribunal brought up before the Apex Court four issues pertaining to railway accidents which the Tribunal was often confronted with. The issues were:
- Quantum of Compensation
- Application of Principle of Strict Liability
- Definition of Passenger
- Rate of Interest
In the case, the Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court made the following conclusion with respect to the aforesaid issue:
Quantum of Compensation– That compensation will be payable as applicable on the date of the accident with interest as may be considered reasonable from time to time on the same pattern as in accident claim cases.
If the amount so calculated is less than the amount prescribed as on the date of the award of the Tribunal, the claimant will be entitled to higher of the two amounts. This order will not affect the awards which have already become final and where limitation for challenging such awards has expired, this order will not by itself be a ground for condonation of delay.
Compensation as applicable on the date of the accident has to be given with reasonable interest and to give effect to the mandate of beneficial legislation, if compensation as provided on the date of award of the Tribunal is higher than unrevised amount with interest, the higher of the two amounts has to be given.
Application of Principle of Strict Liability – Concept of Self Inflicted Injury – In this context, the Apex Court made reference to Section 124 and 124A of the Railways Act, 1989. The Court stated that Sections 124 and Section 124A provide that compensation is payable whether or not there has been wrongful act, neglect or fault on the part of the railway administration in the case of an accident or in the case of an ‘untoward incident’. Only exceptions are those provided under proviso to Section 124A.
That where principle of strict liability applies, proof of negligence is not required. The proviso to Section 124A states that no compensation is payable if passenger dies or suffers injury due to the situations mentioned therein, there is no difficulty as regards suicide or attempted suicide in which case no compensation may be payable.
In view of the aforesaid, it was held that death or injury in the course of boarding or de-boarding a train will be an ‘untoward incident’ entitling a victim to the compensation and will not fall under the proviso to Section 124A merely on the plea of negligence of the victim as a contributing factor.
Burden of Proof When Body Found on Railway Premises – Definition of Passenger – That mere presence of a body on the Railway premises will not be conclusive to hold that injured or deceased was a bona fide passenger for which claim for compensation could be maintained. However, mere absence of ticket with such injured or deceased will not negative the claim that he was a bona fide passenger. Initial burden will be on the claimant which can be discharged by filing an affidavit of the relevant facts and burden will then shift on the Railways and the issue can be decided on the facts shown or the attending circumstances. This will have to be dealt with from case to case on the basis of facts found. The legal position in this regard will stand explained accordingly.
Rate of Interest– That in absence of any specific statutory provision, interest can be awarded from the date of accident itself when the liability of the Railways arises upto the date of payment, without any difference in the stages. Legal position in this regard is at par with the cases of accident claims under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The entire case can be accessed here.