Mansimran Kaur

Mumbai, May 17, 2022: Observing that the provisions of Chapter XIII of the Railways Act, 1989 are in the nature of a beneficial legislation which imposes a liability on the railway administration for compensating passengers for death and injury due to accident or injury suffered by the victim in the course of working a railway, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has allowed the appeal assailing the judgment of the Claims Tribunal whereby the application for condonation of delay of 1380 days in fling the claim application for grant of compensation was rejected. 

The Bench of Justice M.S.Karnik opined that Section 124-A indicates that an obligation is cast on the railway administration to pay the compensation prescribed to a passenger who has died or injured on account of an untoward incident in the course of working a railway. It was noted that the object is that the compensation should reach the passenger or dependent of a victim in respect of such an incident.

 Facts in brief were that one Jaikumar was traveling in the general compartment of the train and due to sudden jerk and rush in the train, he was pushed by the other passengers which resulted in the untoward incident. He fell down from the running train, came under the wheels of the train and died on the spot. A claim application was filed along with the application for condonation of delay of 1380 days before the Tribunal by one Nishant Devrao Wasnik, who is the younger brother of Jaikumar. 

The Tribunal observed that the claim application was filed by the younger brother of Jaikumar and in view of the same, the Tribunal stated that the applicant was not a dependent within the meaning of Clause (b) of Section 123 of the Railways Act. In pursuance of the same, the applicant approached the present High Court. The subject matter before the present Court was refusal of the Tribunal to accept the application for condonation of delay of 1380 days.  

According to the High Court, the question as to whether the person is a dependent within the meaning of clause (b) of Section 123 of the Railways Act is a question that the Tribunal could have gone into only after deciding the application for condonation of delay, if at all the delay is condoned. The judgment of the Top Court in  Commissioner, Nagar Parishad, Bhilwara Vs. Labour Court, Bhilwara & Anr was also referred to. Remarking that the liability of the railway administration u/s124A of the Railways Act is based on the concept “no fault theory”, the Bench opined that the delay was not such that the same did not deserve to be condoned, even after the appellant had given up his right to claim interest for the delayed period apart from the cause shown in the application. The Bench also said “The Tribunal is conferred with the discretion to entertain the application even beyond the period of one year prescribed so as to ensure that the substantive justice is not trumped by the technicalities”

The Bench affirmed that Section 17(2) of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act,1987 provides that the Tribunal has power to condone the delay if it is satisfied that ‘sufficient cause’ exists. Thus, in light of the above observations, the Court stated that in the instant case the delay was of 3 years, 9 months and 15 days. Hence, the Bench allowed the Appeal holding that the delay in filing the claim application before the Tribunal is condoned.

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