Mumbai: Observing that an order of the Railways Claims Tribunal was “not only perverse but also in total ignorance of the settled legal position”, the Bombay high court quashed it and directed the Union of India to pay Rs 8 lakh as compensation to the parents of a youth who was fatally injured after falling from a crowded local train in 2010.
On August 31, Justice Prithviraj Chavan quashed the April 21, 2014 order passed by the tribunal observing: “… judgment [of tribunal] is not only perverse but also in total ignorance of the settled legal position… as well as the facts and evidence on record.”
Alpesh Dhotre died after falling from a crowded train between Naigaon and Vasai Road Railway Stations on January 26, 2010. He was travelling with a cousin from Bhayandar to Vasai, in a crowded compartment and fell off the train and was fatally injured. The station master had prepared an accident memo following a report from an unknown person. Witness statements were recorded and an autopsy revealed the cause of death as ‘haemodynamic shock to polytrauma (severe blunt trauma with injuries to multiple organ systems)’.
His parents, Arun, 53, and Aruna, 48, had sought compensation from the tribunal, which had rejected it, saying they had failed to prove that it was an ‘untoward incident’ as per the Railways Act and that they were ‘dependent’ on their son. However, the tribunal held that he was a ‘bona fide passenger’ with a valid ticket at the time of the accident.
What Did The Tribunal Say?
The tribunal said the GRP had mentioned in its report that the deceased fell from an unknown local train, but they ‘failed to establish the reason for the incident, i.e falling down from any train, by any supportive evidence’, hence no cognisance could be given to such assumptions mentioned in the GRP’s reports. Moreover, there was no independent eyewitness to the incident.
Therefore, in the absence of independent witnesses and concrete evidence, it could not be established that the deceased had fallen down from any train, the tribunal reasoned. The parents challenged the order before the high court through advocate Balasaheb Deshmukh, contending that the documents showed that it was an untoward incident. Deshmukh also showed the Aadhaar and ration cards of Alpesh and his parents, which showed that they were dependent on him.
The railways contended that since it was Republic Day, there was no rush in the local train and therefore, there was no question of boarding a crowded local train which had resulted in his fall. “Merely because the cousin of the deceased, who was admittedly travelling with him in the local train with valid ticket, was not examined, would not ipso facto diminish other clinching evidence discussed hereinabove,” the HC added.
“The tribunal has also committed grave error by observing that on the date of the accident, the appellants are shown to be the residents of ‘Virsai in Ratnagiri’, instead of ‘Vasai in Thane District’. Such observations made by the trial court are again in ignorance of common sense, for, merely because residence of the appellants-parents of the deceased is shown as Virsai in Ratnagiri would not disentitle them from claiming compensation in view of the facts and attending circumstances,” said the bench, adding that it could not be grounds to deny their claim.