For failing to prevent entry of unauthorised persons in a reserved compartment leading to theft of a suitcase containing cash and jewellery amounting to Rs 1 lakh, Northern Railways will pay `10,000 as compensation for deficient services to a Sector 15 resident.
Sector 15 resident Balbir Singh had moved the district consumer disputes redressal forum, Chandigarh, against the Northern Railways after two of his suitcases were stolen from the train he was travelling in with his family.
Coming down heavily on Northern Railways, the consumer forum, presided over by PL Ahuja, said, "Since the theft of his two suitcases took place from a reserved compartment, it warrants that some intruder had entered the compartment and committed the theft. Apparently there was a failure on the part of TTE to prevent entry of unauthorised person in the coach during the night, therefore, we feel that there was a gross dereliction of duty which resulted in deficiency in service on the part of the railways. Since the loss was due to the negligence or misconduct on the part of servant of the railways, therefore, the railways is liable for deficiency in service."
"Balbir claimed that he pulled the chain to stop the train but the train did not stop. Railways have not filed any affidavit of the guard or the attendant of the coach to prove that the complainant did not pull the chain to stop the train," read the order dated August 13.
The consumer forum also directed railways to pay Rs 5,100 as the cost of litigation to Balbir, however, as he did not provide "documentary proof" of the purchase of the gold, jewellary and clothes stolen during the journey, no relief was granted by the consumer forum on this front.
Balbir Singh said he had booked two tickets from Delhi to Kolkata via Patna in November 2011. On November 9, 2011, he and his family boarded the train from Patna and while the train was on its way to Kolkata, he had found that two of his suitcases had been stolen. Balbir tried to pull the chain but the train did not stop. At the next station, he reported the matter to Government Railway Police station, Jhajha (Bihar).
Northern Railways, while contesting the complaint, tried to take refuge under section 100 of the Railways Act, 1989, which says that it is not responsible for the loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery of unbooked luggage. In fact railways claimed that Balbir's suitcase was stolen owing to his "carelessness and negligence".
Further railways said that Consumer Protection Act does not apply to them as service under the Act includes only those articles which are paid facilities and not those which are free of cost. The complainant had neither booked the suitcases nor had paid any charges for taking the same with him.