Mumbaiites forced to take overcrowded trains, can’t be cited to deny accident claims: HC

Railways had opposed his plea claiming that he tried to catch a running train and in the process slipped in the gap and sustained injuries that rendered him jobless.
Dahisar resident Nitin Hundiwala, who was working as a part-time consultant with a company at Vikroli, had on November 23, 2011, slipped in the gap between the platform and the local train while (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
Dahisar resident Nitin Hundiwala, who was working as a part-time consultant with a company at Vikroli, had on November 23, 2011, slipped in the gap between the platform and the local train while (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
Published on Apr 26, 2022 10:00 PM IST
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ByVinay Dalvi

Mumbai: Boarding overcrowded trains is a calculated risk that Mumbai residents are compelled to take to reach their destination on time and it cannot be cited to refuse accident claims to suburban commuters, the Bombay high court has held, allowing an 80-year-old city resident’s claim for compensation. A copy of the order was made available on Tuesday.

Dahisar resident Nitin Hundiwala, who was working as a part-time consultant with a company at Vikroli, had on November 23, 2011, slipped in the gap between the platform and the local train while trying to board a Virar-bound train at Dadar station. He claimed that the train was overcrowded and he lost his balance and fell as he received a forceful push from the passengers inside the compartment.

Railways had opposed his plea claiming that he tried to catch a running train and in the process slipped in the gap and sustained injuries that rendered him jobless.

He approached the high court after the Railway Accident Claims Tribunal rejected his claim for compensation of 4 lakh on July 17, 2013, holding that it was not an “untoward incident” as contemplated under section 124-A of the Railways Act, 1989.

The tribunal held that there was a variance between the statements given by the complainant as he had given different versions in his claim petition and in his statement to the police, in which Hundiwala said that he slipped after losing grip on the pole at the door while trying to board the train.

A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati Dangre on April 5 reversed the verdict. The judge held that even if it was assumed that the version given to the police was the correct one, still it would not be outside the purview of the term “untoward incident”.

The court directed the Western Railway to pay 3 lakh to the man who suffered injuries to his leg after falling off an overcrowded local train.

The bench also said that railway accident claims can be denied only in exceptional cases where the act of the claimant would amount to a “criminal act” as contemplated under the Railways Act. The calculated risk of boarding an overcrowded train cannot be called a criminal act and railway accident claims cannot be denied on that ground, the bench noted.

“If in the daily chores, a passenger attempts to gain entry in an overcrowded train and is pushed by other passengers, resulting in his fall, there is no reason why such incident cannot fall within the ambit of an untoward incident,” said the court. Justice Dangre added that local trains in Mumbai are often called the “lifeline of the city” as a large number of city residents rely on them to get to work or other destinations and it is not unknown for them to take risks to reach their destinations on time.

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Sunday, June 26, 2022