Most people are unaware that like the airlines, the Railways, too, have a limited free baggage allowance and that passengers found carrying baggage in excess of the free baggage allowance will have to pay a steep penalty. While airlines weigh your bags at the time of issuing the boarding pass, the Railways check at random, baggage suspected to be over-weight and levy a penalty. Since such checking requires a weighing scale, this is mostly done at stations where passengers disembark.
The Indian Railways’ free baggage allowance is 50 kg for first class and air-conditioned two-tier sleeper class and 40 kg for AC three-tier sleeper class. The baggage allowance for children between the age group of 5 and 12 years is half of this. If your baggage exceeds the free allowance limit, you need to have it weighed and pay the prescribed charges before embarking on your journey.
Railway baggage rules say that that if you are found carrying excess baggage, you will have to pay a penalty, which is six times the luggage scale rate. Besides the free baggage allowance, the Railways also specify a ‘ marginal allowance’ and a’ maximum permitted quantity’ and the penalty varies on the basis of this categorisation. So, if by chance you are asked to pay for excess baggage, it is best to ask the official to show the rule book.
However, in order to exercise the right to penalise passengers for any excess baggage, the railways have to inform passengers about the free baggage allowance and even more important, ensure that the weighing scales at all railway stations are easily accessible and are in good shape to avoid victimising commuters.
A case decided by the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission many years ago highlights this point best.
About two decades ago, KN Pratap Kumar, a student travelling from New Delhi to Bangalore by Karnataka Express, had got his four pieces of baggage weighed at New Delhi. The scales showed a total of 70 kg and on that basis, he even paid Rs 100 for excess baggage. However at Hindupur, the officials got his baggage weighed and when it showed 90 kg, imposed a penalty of Rs 812 for the undeclared excess baggage of 20 kg. Since he was being penalised for the inaccuracies in the railway weighing scales, Pratap eventually filed a case before the consumer court and recovered the fine imposed unfairly on him.