If public transportation has to survive and compete with private players, they have to improve system and their working culture | Read SC’s opinion on liability of railways towards passengers for delayed train arrival

Supreme Court: While addressing the matter wherein a passenger suffered loss and agony due to delay in the arrival of train, M.R Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., observed that,

These are the days of competition and accountability. If public transportation has to survive and compete with private players, they have to improve the system and their working culture.

Background

Aggrieved by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Commission and District Forum, wherein the    Northern Western Railway and another were directed to pay to the complainant – respondent Rs 15,000 for taxi expenses, Rs 10,000 towards booking expenses along with Rs 5,000 towards mental agony and litigation expenses. Aggrieved by the same, present special leave petition was preferred.

Respondent had booked 4 tickets from Northern Western Railway along with the return reserved tickets.

Respondent’s case was that, he had to take flight at 12:00 noon from Jammu to Srinagar in SpiceJet. But the said train did not reach in time and it was delayed by 4 hours and reached Jammu at 12:00 noon.

Since the Jammu Airport was at a far distance from Jammu Railway Station and they had to reach the airport at least two hours prior to the departure of the flight, they could not reach in time and missed the flight.

Further, the respondent had to book private taxi to reach Srinagar.

In view of the above background, respondent claimed a loss of Rs 9,000as airfare, Rs 15,000 towards taxi hire charges for going from Jammu to Srinagar, Rs 10,000 on account of booking of boat in Dal Lake.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Supreme Court opined that in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, impugned orders awarding compensation to the complainant do not warrant any interference.

No evidence was led by the railways explaining the delay and/or late arrival of train at Jammu. The railways were required to lead the evidence and explain the late arrival of train to establish and prove that delay occurred because of reasons beyond their control. 

At least the railways were required to explain the delay which the railways failed.

Bench held that unless and until the evidence was laid explaining the delay and it was established and proved that delay occurred which was beyond their control and/or even there was some justification for delay, the railway is liable to pay the compensation for delay and late arrival of trains.

Hence, in the present matter, the decision of the Commission’s observing that there was a deficiency in service leading to the railways being liable to pay the compensation to the passenger – complainant was rightly observed.

While concluding the matter and stating that no interference of this Court is called for, Bench emphasized that,

Citizen/passenger cannot be at the mercy of the authorities/administration. Somebody has to accept the responsibility.

 [Northern Western Railway v. Sanjay Shukla, Special Leave Petition (C) No. 13288 of 2021, decided on 6-09-2021]

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