SC directs Railways to pay compensation for death of passenger due to fall

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A man had died on September 27, 2014, after being decapitated by a running train at Mahadanapuram Railway Station.

The Supreme Court recently directed the Indian Railway to pay rupees eight lakh to a woman whose husband died on September 27, 2014, after being decapitated by a running train at Mahadanapuram Railway Station.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and J K Maheshwari allowed an appeal filed by Kamukayi and others and set aside the Madras High Court and Railway Claims Tribunal's orders which had rejected their plea for compensation.

The Railway authorities contested the claim on the ground the deceased was not a bona fide passenger as a journey ticket was not found with him. 

The court, however, relied upon the judgement in the case of 'Kamrunnissa vs Union of India' (2019) which stated that the mere absence of a ticket with such an injured or deceased will not negative the claim that he was a bona fide passenger. The initial burden will be on the claimant which can be 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. 

Analysing the facts of the present case, the bench noted, " has come on record that Manikandan, son of the deceased procured a valid train ticket for travel from Lalapettai to Karur and handed it over to the deceased. The averments made in the claim petition have been testified and even in the cross-examination, he has reiterated that the ticket for the deceased from Lalapettai to Karur was purchased for a sum of Rs 10 and sent him off at Station to go to Karur". 

"The deceased fell down at Mahadanapuram Railway Station. The said averment of the claim petition and the statement of D Ravisankar, Station Master finds support from the inquest report prepared on the date of incidence and the final report prepared by the Investigation Officer, Railway Police Station Trichy. The said reports have been referred to in the investigation report as well", it noted.

"Considering the material brought on record, in our view, the initial burden that the deceased passenger having a valid ticket has been discharged shifting the onus on the Railway Administration to disprove the said fact. Nothing has been placed before the Claims Tribunal or brought on record during the course of the hearing that the Railway Administration has discharged the burden of not having the valid railway ticket with the deceased passenger, except to say that during recovery ticket was not found. In the absence of any cogent evidence, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, the Railway Administration shall be liable to pay compensation as prescribed," the bench said.

The bench held that it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that deceased Muchamy alias Muthusamy died in an untoward incident while travelling as a bona fide passenger. 

The court set aside the findings recorded by the Claims Tribunal and affirmed by the High Court holding them as "perverse". 

"In our view, as per the provisions contained in Section 124A of Railways Act and Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 1990, the appellants are entitled to claim compensation," the bench declared.

Case Title: Kamukayi & Ors vs. Union of India and Ors.

Statute:  Railways Act 1989, Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 1990