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Railways accountable for consumer troubles

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2010 00:15 IST

Hindustan Times
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When you buy a confirmed ticket to travel and are allotted a particular seat or berth, you expect that reservation to be available to you on the day of travel. After all, that is the very purpose of booking a confirmed ticket — it guarantees your travel as per your ticket.

But in the Indian Railways lexicon, the word 'reservation' has an entirely different meaning. If you go by the railways interpretation of the word, it does not guarantee reserved seat or berth.

The Indian Railways Reservation Rules say: "The Railway Administration will endeavour to provide reserved accommodation but does not guarantee the same and will admit no claim for compensation for inconvenience, loss or extra expense due to such accommodation including carriages, not being provided or reserved carriage not been attached to a particular train. The supply of any particular type of carriage or the provision of a particular berth and seat is also not guaranteed."

In other words, the railways try very hard to escape liability for the consequences of any negligence or deficiency on their part in issuing tickets. Fortunately for consumers, the consumer courts have foiled all such efforts.

I remember one of the first cases on the issue filed before the consumer court, wherein a young mother, travelling with an infant, had a harrowing experience, thanks to a careless mistake in ticketing made by railway officials.

Medha Karnik was issued a confirmed ticket to travel from Tiruchirapalli to Chennai and then from Chennai to Mumbai by Chennai Express.

However, when Medha reached Chennai station, she found to her horror that Chennai Express did not run on Wednesdays at all. With the railway officials at Chennai ignoring her pleas for help, Medha was finally forced to travel with the baby on another train, in an unreserved compartment and on a luggage loft for 27 hours without sleep or food.

When a consumer group took up this case before the consumer court, the railways argued that the passenger was to blame, as she had failed to check the railway timetable! Dismissing this, the Commission said the railways had to take responsibility for their negligence and pay for the consequences. It awarded a compensation of Rs 7,500 (S.Pushpavanam Vs The General Manager, Southern Railway, OP No 7 of 1991)

In a more recent case, four passengers were awarded a compensation of Rs 10,000 each for the inconvenience caused to them on account of the railways failure to make the promised reservation for the onward journey. (Union Government of India Vs Subhash Chand Jasuja, RP No78 of 2001, decided in 2006)

But obviously, the railways have not learnt any lessons.

Rajendra Maleyvar: I bough five confirmed tickets (II 2S class) for our journey from Delhi to Bhiwani on January 24, 2009, by Kisan Express and return tickets by the same train the next day.

However on reaching the railway stations (Delhi and Bhiwani) on the scheduled dates we were informed that there were no reserved coaches attached to the respective trains on both days of our journeys. This put us to a lot of inconvenience and caused avoidable financial loss, besides disrupting our programme. The railways, however, are not responding positively to my demand for compensation.

However on reaching the railway stations (Delhi and Bhiwani) on the scheduled dates we were informed that there were no reserved coaches attached to the respective trains on both days of our journeys. This put us to a lot of inconvenience and caused avoidable financial loss, besides disrupting our programme. The railways, however, are not responding positively to my demand for compensation.

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