Indian Railways Act, 1989 – Section 156 – Death due to travelling on Roof Top of a train – Whether Railway liable ?
Held, the primary responsibility rests with those persons who travelled on the roofs of coaches – It must be expected of the persons concerned to be aware of the inherent danger in allowing the train to run with such speed having large number of persons travelling on roof top – though the people who travelled on roof top also contributed to the mishap, the Railway Administration was not free from blame – the next of kin of those who died in the incident and those who sustained injuries must be duly compensated by the Railway Administration – those who died were obviously very young in age for they had come to compete for the jobs – taking all these factors in consideration the Apex Court directed Railway Administration to pay.
2016(5) Recent Apex Judgments (R.A.J.) 294 : 2016(6) Scale 279 : 2016(6) JT 410 : 2016 AIR (SCW) 3171 : 2016 AIR (SC) 3171 : 2016 ACJ 2018 : 2016(2) Apex Court Judgments (SC) 776 : 2016 All SCR 1486 : 2016(3) ACC 380 : 2016(5) Andh LD 46 : 2016(5) AIR Bom.R 31 : 2016 AAC 1897 : 2016(3) UPLBEC 1759 : 2016(4) PLR 303 : 2016(5) ALT 38 : 2016(4) J.C.R. 186 : 2016(3) TAC 341
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
(T.S. Thakur, CJI) and (Uday Umesh Lalit) JJ.
July 05, 2016
Writ Petition (Civil) No.68 of 2011
Anil Kumar Gupta ….Petitioner
Union of India & Ors. ….Respondents
J U D G M E N T
Uday U. Lalit, J.
1. This petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India has been filed in public interest by an Advocate practising in this Court highlighting an incident that occurred on 01.02. 2011 near Mohammadabad Crossing in Shahjahanpur Division in State of Uttar Pradesh. The petitioner has prayed for directions, inter alia, for finding out reasons for loss of lives, for assessment of damage to property and for grant of compensation or financial assistance to victims. He has also prayed for directions for laying down guidelines for necessary precautions and care to be taken so that such tragedy is not repeated again.
2. The incident highlighted in the petition was:-
a. In a recruitment drive aimed at filling up 416 posts of Class IV employees, Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP, for short) had called candidates from eleven States at its headquarter located at Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh on 1.2.2011. The aspiring candidates for said posts were required to remain present in person and submit their forms for registration. In response to said recruitment drive, aspirants started arriving at Bareilly and by morning of 1.02.2011 more than two lakh aspirants had arrived. The gathering was swelling and increasing in number. The officers of ITBP found themselves incapable of managing the situation because of such large gathering and as such they suspended and postponed the drive.
b. The consequent resentment and shouting of slogans in protest by aspirants provoked the higher officers of ITBP to use lathi charge to push the crowd. This resulted in a chaotic situation with some aspirants resorting to violence. The armed police then had to use tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. Massive disturbance and lawlessness prevailed all over the town causing law and order problem. Some buses were burnt and damage was caused to public and private property. In the backdrop of such situation the crowd of aspiring candidates rushed to rail and road terminals to return back to their homes.
c. Because of congestion and crowd in large members, the train coaches were all jam packed. Hundreds of young men then climbed atop Himgiri Express that was on its way to eastern U.P. and Bihar from where large number of aspirants had come.
d. When Himgiri Express left Shahjahanpur Railway Station with hundreds of men on roof top and headed towards Rosa town, an accident took place at Hathaurda Railway Over Bridge near Mohammadabad crossing in Shahajahanpur. The Railway Over Bridge was not tall enough and the gap between the roof of the coach and the bottom of the over bridge was hardly three feet. The train was speeding fast and by the time the young men on roof top saw the approaching bridge it was too late. At least 14 young men were crushed there and then with 20 others seriously injured having been hit by the Over Bridge and fallen from roof top. At this time, some high tension wire broke and fell over the train as a result of which some received electric shocks. Despite this mishap, the train continued running for a while and it finally stopped some 3 kms from the place of incident.
e. The roof top of coaches was full of blood. The dead bodies and injured were brought down. People rushed back to find out those who had fallen from the roof top. The train driver, guard and other employees had run away from the spot.
f. The incident provoked those young aspirants, some of whom torched two coaches of the train. What followed thereafter was total chaos putting tremendous pressure on the Administration in carrying out relief work and taking injured to Hospitals for medical attention.
3. With the aforesaid assertions this petition was filed on 7.2.2011. In the meantime Railway Administration had ordered an enquiry. By interim order passed by this Court the respondents were directed to submit the Report pursuant to enquiry instituted by them. Consequently, Enquiry Report dated 09.09.2011 by Mr. Raj Kumar Kardam, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Northern Circle, New Delhi was placed on record. The record indicates that this Report was preceded by Prelimnary Report dated 23.02.2011. The relevant portions of Chapter 7 of the Report dated 09.09.2011 under heading “Discussion” are as under:-
“Time of the accident ……As per the statement of loco pilot, assistant loco pilot and guard of train no. 12332 Dn Jammu Tawi-Howrah Himgiri Express, the train passed Shahjahanpur station at 16:23 hrs. The other records also show that this train passed Shahjahanpur station at 16:23 hrs a few passengers travelling on the roofs of the coaches of this train got struck against the Public Foot Over Bridge located at LKO (East) end in Shahjahanpur Yard near the end of the platform.