Clarifying the scope of Rina Devi Case, Delhi High Court rules ‘Railway not liable where initial burden of bona fide passenger is not proved by claimant’

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a case, wherein an appeal was filed under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 (Act) against the Order passed by the Railway Claims Tribunal (Tribunal), the Single Judge Bench of Manoj Kumar Ohri, J. held that the appellants failed to prove that the ticket was purchased by the deceased and therefore, it cannot be said that the deceased was a bona fide passenger.

Background

In the present case, the deceased purchased the journey ticket from Allahabad Railway Station to travel to New Delhi and boarded the train. When the train was about to arrive at the New Delhi Railway Station, the deceased standing near the compartment gate fell from the train due to sudden and heavy jerk. The deceased was moved to the hospital where he died. The appellants (parents of the deceased) filed a claim petition for compensation before the Railway Claims Tribunal, where it was held that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger as he did not have the ticket on him and hence, the petition was dismissed.

Submissions on behalf of the Appellants

Counsel for the appellants submitted that while passing the impugned order though the Tribunal had held that the incident was an untoward incident, however, it erred in arriving at a conclusion that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger as no ticket was found from his body. While relying on Union of India v. Rina Devi, (2019) 3 SCC 572 (Rina Devi case), it was submitted that the appellants were able to discharge their initial burden by filing an affidavit along with the claim application wherein it was stated that the deceased had undertaken the journey after purchasing the ticket.

Submissions on behalf of the Respondent

Counsel for the respondent also placed reliance on Rina Devi case and submitted that the Tribunal rightly concluded that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger as there was no witness to the deceased buying the ticket and no ticket was found on him on search.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court noted that during the search, no ticket was found with the deceased person and in support of claim, only Appellant 1 (father of the deceased) was examined. The father of the deceased stated that he had not accompanied the deceased to the railway station therefore, ticket was not purchased in his presence. During cross-examination, it was stated by the mother of the deceased that she had accompanied the deceased to the railway station and gave him money for purchasing the ticket.

The Court relied on Rina Devi, where it was held that “mere presence of a body on the railway premises would not be conclusive to hold that injured or deceased was a bona fide passenger for which claim for compensation could be maintained. However, mere absence of ticket with such injured or deceased would not negate the claim that he was a bona fide passenger. The initial burden would be on the claimant, which could be discharged by filing an affidavit of the relevant facts and burden would then shift on the Railways and the issue could be decided on the facts shown or the attending circumstances. This would have to be dealt with from case to case based on facts found.”.

The Court noted that in case the journey ticket was lost, the initial burden could be discharged by placing evidence by way of an affidavit thereby stating the circumstances under which the ticket was purchased, and the train journey was undertaken. But in the present case, neither in the claim application nor in an affidavit these facts were stated by the appellants. Thus, the Court opined that the appellants have failed to discharge the burden that was upon them. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the impugned order that was passed by the Tribunal.

[Raj Kumar v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 3825, decided on 15-11-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Appellant(s): Advocate D.S. Sabharwal;

For the Respondent(s): Senior Panel Counsel Anushkaa Arora along with Advocate Aditya Sharan.

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