Ruling that railway passengers are consumers and hence liable for compensation through the normal procedure, the South Mumbai District Consumer Forum directed the Central Railway to pay compensation of Rs3.10 lakh to two commuters who suffered major injuries after an under-construction roof fell on them at Govandi railway station three years ago.
“It is the duty of the railway administration to take necessary precaution to protect bona fide passengers from untoward incidents,” the consumer court said, directing the railways to pay Rs2.5 lakh to Jahir Abdul Latif Sayyed and Rs60,000 to Manjula Hayling.
On August 5, 2008, the two were waiting for a train on platform number 2 of the station when a beam came crashing over them. Sayyed, a welder by profession, was grievously injured with multiple fractures, while Hayling suffered a fracture on her right ankle, apart from several minor injuries.
Sayeed and Hayling approached the consumer forum in March 2009 seeking compensation of Rs10 lakh each, contending the incident had rendered them disabled, affecting their source of livelihood.
The railway administration contended that the complaint cannot be heard by a consumer forum and should have been filed before the Railway Accident Claims Tribunal. The consumer forum, however, overruled the objection saying that railway passengers pay for services provided for by the railways and are therefore consumers within the definition provided by the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The railways also argued that the incident occurred while the roof was being repaired and the passengers had no business to be at the site, but the consumer court discarded the defense observing the railways had not taken precautionary measures such as erection of a barricade or displaying caution boards to prevent passengers form entering the area.
The forum concluded that lack of such precautionary measures amounted to deficiency on part of the railway administration. * However, it reduced the claims of compensation made by the commuters taking into consideration provisions of the Railway Accident and Untoward Incident (Compensation) Rules, 1990.