Case BriefsSupreme Court

   

Supreme Court: In an appeal filed against the judgment of the Delhi High Court, wherein the Court has set aside the orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal and thereafter directed the northern railway (appellants) to count 50% of respondents service as commission vendors, prior to their absorption, as “qualifying service” for grant of pensionary benefits, the division bench of M.R. Shah* and B.V. Nagarathna held that the respondents/commission vendors working in the northern railway shall also be entitled to the same benefits which the other commission vendors working in different zones/divisions are entitled to and there cannot be discrimination among the similarly situated commission vendors as to deny similar benefits would be tantamount to discrimination and in violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.

The Court noted that the issue in the present case is with respect to commission vendors working in the Northern Railway, and the issue is whether the commission vendors who were absorbed in the regular service are entitled to reckon 50% of the period of service as commission vendors, prior to their absorption, as qualifying service for grant of pensionary benefits, at par with the casual labourers whose services were regularized by virtue of Rule 2005 of the Indian Railway Establishment Manual, Vol. II, 1991 read with Rule 31 of the Railway Services (Pension) Rules, 1993.

It was also noted that so far as the commission vendors working in the western railway, eastern railway, southern railway and south-eastern railway are concerned, pursuant to different orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunals and High Courts, which have been confirmed by this Court, the issue is held against the Union of India/Railways, as the commission vendors are held to be entitled to 50% of the services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits and all of them were granted such benefits.

The Court said that it cannot be disputed that employees working in different divisions/zones in the Railways are under the very same employer – Railway Board which is under the Ministry of Railways. Therefore, the employees working under the same employer in different zones/divisions are required to be treated similarly and equally and are entitled to similar benefits and are entitled to the same treatment.

Thus, it was held that, on the ground of parity, the commission vendors working in the Northern Railway are entitled to the same benefits which are provided to all the similarly situated commission vendors working under different zones/divisions and there cannot be different criteria/parameters with respect to similarly situated employees.

The Court noted that the submission of the Railways that there will be huge financial burden on them, is not a reason to deny the similar benefits to the respondents, as the commission vendors working in the northern railway are also entitled to similar benefits given to the similarly situated commission vendors working in different divisions who are already being paid the pensionary benefits by counting the benefit of 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization.

Thus, the Court while applying the doctrine of stare decisis, dismissed the appeals and held that commission vendors working in the northern railway are entitled to have 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits like other office bearers working under the Railway Board, working in different zones/divisions.

[Union of India v. Munshi Ram, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1493, decided on 31-10-2022]

*Judgment by: Justice M.R. Shah.


*Apoorva Goel, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Addressing a matter pertaining to the widow’s right of inheritance on the property of the deceased husband, S.M. Modak, J., observed that,

Both wife and mother will have an equal share in light of Section 24 of the Hindu Succession Act, which was in existence at the time of the dispute.

Substantial Question of Law:

Whether a widow can claim the estate of the husband after re-marriage?

High Court referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Kasturi Devi v. Deputy Director of Consolidation, AIR 1976 SC 2595. In the said decision, “the effect of re-marriage on her right to claim share in the property” was considered, though the status of the woman in the said decision was not of a widow but of a mother. Hence the claim pertained for inheritance not as a widow but as a mother. To this issue it was held that there won’t be any effect on her share of inheritance from a son even after she re-married.

Issue in the present matter was:

What is the effect on widow’s right of inheritance (not in the property of a son) on the property of the deceased husband?

Deceased was married to respondent 1 and the present appellant is the mother of the deceased.

It was stated that deceased had nominated his wife for the dues that he was entitled to from the Indian Railways, though it came on record that the deceased and wife were not living together due to the existence of a dispute between them.

After the death of the husband, defendant-wife re-married.

In view of the above events, the plaintiff claimed dues from Indian Railways and informed Indian Railways about the re-marriage of defendant. On non-provision of marriage certificate, the employer disbursed the dues in favour of the wife.

Trial Court favoured the plaintiff and decreed the suit in toto.

Hence, Indian Railways was directed to pay all the due to the plaintiff, though the Appellate Court recognized the share of defendant and directed the employer to disburse the amount to plaintiff and defendant.

Appellate Court’s decision has been challenged before this Court.

Provisions of Law

It was stated that the dues of employer are nothing but the self-acquired property of the deceased and as per Hindu Succession Act, Section 24, the widow loses rights if she remarries on the date when succession opens. It is also true that the said Section was omitted from the Act o 1956 w.e.f 9th September, 2005.

Since the deceased had expired on 19-04-1991, so we have to see what the position in force at that time was. Section 24 was in existence at that point of time, hence as per the said provision, whether it can be said that defendant can be excluded from succeeding the property of the deceased?

Section 14 of the Act of 1956 makes the female Hindu being absolute owner if she possessed the property. Whereas Section 24 of the said Act disinherits the widow if she re-marries.

A very pertinent fact that was noted by the Bench was that, if the widow had not re-married when the succession opened, the disqualification under Section 24 of the Act of 1956 wouldn’t be applicable.

Defendant-Sunanda re-married in May, 1991 (i.e. after opening of succession on 19-04-1991).

Furthermore, the Court stated that since the plaintiff and defendant were class 1 heirs, they were entitled to get equal share in the property of the deceased and as contemplated under Section 10 of the Act of 1956, the widow and the mother of the intestate takes one share each.

Therefore, both the wife and mother were entitled to get 50% from the property of the deceased.

Doctrine of enrichment

Since the wife is not solely entitled to get the whole amount, she was bound to return 50% of the amount to the plaintiff.

Respondent 1 was to refund the amount with 6% interest.

Appeal was disposed of in view of the above discussion. [Jaiwantabai v. Sunanda, Second Appeal No. 144 of 2007, decided on 23-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Shri Ved Deshpande h/f Shri A.S. Mardikar, Senior Advocate for the Appellant Shri J.B. Gandhi, Advocate for Respondent 1.
Shri N.P. Lambat, Advocate for Respondent 2.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Atul Sreedharan, J., requested Indian Railways to re-prioritize the berth allotment by giving the highest priority to pregnant women, then to senior citizens and thereafter to VVIPs.

Public Interest Litigation

A PIL was registered suo-motu by Court with regard to certain measures regarding railway journeys in the public interest.

Genesis

PIL transpires from an event wherein, a train journey was undertaken by a Judge of this Court while travelling from Gwalior to Jabalpur on an official visit.

When the train reached the Katni-Murwara station, the Judge got off the train for a cup of tea and suddenly, the train started pulling out from the platform without blowing its horn. The Judge was put to great inconvenience and the accompanying hazard of boarding the running train.

In view of the above incident, few suggestions were made by the Judge with the intent of ensuring a comfortable journey for passengers.

Following are the three suggestions put forth by the Judge:

  1. “It would be in the interest of the public at large that some light signal/sound be fixed on each bogie enabling the passengers outside the train to be alert prior to departure of train with a view to avoid mis-happening/accident.
  2. If the website/app is updated by displaying the position of the seats/berths to be allotted at the time of making reservation, that would be more convenient and suitable for the public in general.
  3. The size/number of doors of the bogies should be increased or in the alternative, duration of stoppage of the trains should be increased from two minute to at least five minute, to make the people smooth and easy while boarding of getting off the train.”

Respondent in view of the above-made suggestions stated that, as regard the first suggestion, the train does not move without at least two whistles and without a display of the green/amber signal on the platform in front of each train. Further instructions have been issued to the staff concerned that greater caution and care should be taken to ensure that the horn of the engine is loud and audible.

Adding to the above, it was stated that the modification of the coach requires a policy decision and design approval affecting thousands of trains all over the country and that it would not be possible to switch over to a new system of signalling overnight or even over months.

With regard to the second suggestion made, respondent stated that though berths which are vacant for allotment are not displayed on the official website of the railways, a comparison with the airlines would not be an accurate assessment of the problem.

IT experts associated with the railways have stated that providing information relating to vacant berths and their position in the coach is presently not possible.

Further, while answering the issue of granting lower berths to senior citizens has stated that in the priority list of the railways, the VVIPs like ministers, Supreme Court/High Court Judges etc., fall very high and they have to be first allotted the lower berths. After the VVIPs are accommodated, priorities are given to pregnant women and senior citizens. The respondent expressed their inability to manage to the extent that each and every person should be given the lower berth.

With regard to widening the doors or increasing the stoppage time of the trains respondent stated that widening the size of the doors will decrease the passenger carrying capacity of the coach and will also compromise the safety of the passengers. 

Bench stated that Court cannot force respondent to incur expenses which the respondent does not consider as economically viable and also on account of the large number of trains on which the said measures would have to be implemented which makes the proposals difficult, also impossible to implement.

Hence, Court cannot pass a judicial order in matters which would interfere with aspects of policy relating to the respondent for which this Court lacks the technical expertise to appreciate the difficulties that would be faced by the railways in giving effect to the suggestions.

Though Court did request the respondent to consider the re-prioritising the berth allotment by giving the highest priority to pregnant women, then to senior citizens and thereafter to VVIPs.

As regards the priority of allocation of the lower berth is concerned, the same as it exists on date is unpragmatic. Pregnant women are most vulnerable on account of their medical condition and it would cause them great inconvenience in occupying the middle or upper berth.

Passengers suffering from terminal illness or life threatening ailments like cancer and those who are physically or mentally challenged, be considered as priority no.1 for allotment of the lower berth.

The senior citizens who on account of their advanced age and attendant medical issues should be considered at priority no. 2

Lastly, the VVIP’s who are usually serving state functionaries are invariably those blessed with better health and so be considered at priority no. 3.

In view of the above directions, petition was disposed of. [In Reference v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine MP 1658, decided on 27-07-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Indian Railways plans to gradually restart passenger train operations from 12th May, 2020, initially with 15 pairs of trains (30 return journeys). These trains will be run as special trains from New Delhi Station connecting Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.

Thereafter, Indian Railways shall start more special services on new routes, based on the available coaches after reserving 20,000 coaches for COVID-19 care centres and adequate number of coaches being reserved to enable operation of up to 300 trains everyday as “Shramik Special” for stranded migrants.

Booking for reservation in these trains will start at 4 pm on 11th May and will be available only on the IRCTC website (https://www.irctc.co.in/). Ticket booking counters at the railway stations shall remain closed and no counter  tickets (including platform tickets) shall be issued. Only passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter the railway stations.  It will be mandatory for the passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the train. Further details including train schedule will be issued separately in due course.


Ministry of Railways

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Ministry of Railways has converted its 5231 coaches as Covid Care Centers. The Coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to the Covid Care centers as per guidelines issued by MoHFW. These coaches can be used in areas where State has exhausted the facilities and needs to augment capacities for isolation of both suspect and confirmed Covid cases.

The guidelines issued by MoHWF are enclosed (in the link given below).

Sustaining the fight against Covid-19, Indian Railways is making an all out effort to supplement the health care efforts of Government of India. Indian Railways has geared up to provide its 5231 Covid Care Centers to the State. Zonal Railways has converted these coaches for quarantine facility.

Out of 215 stations, Railways to provide healthcare facilities in 85 stations, in 130 stations, States to request COVID care coaches only if they agree to provide staff and essential medicines. Indian Railways has kept 158 stations ready with watering and charging facility and 58 stations with watering facility for these COVID Care centers. (list is enclosed in the link given below as Annexure A).

Apart from Covid care centers, Indian Railways to deploy more than 2500 Doctors and 35000 paramedic staff to meet the COVID 19 challenge. Doctors and paramedics being recruited on a temporary basis by various zones. Around 5,000 beds in 17 dedicated hospitals and 33 hospital blocks in Railway Hospitals identified for treatment of COVID-19 patients getting ready any contingency.

As per guidelines of MoHFW, State Governments would send the requisition to Railways. Railways will make allocation of these coaches to the State/UTs. After allocation by Railways, the train shall be placed, at required station with necessary infrastructure, and handed over to District Collector/Magistrate or one of their authorised persons. Wherever the train is placed, watering, electricity, repairs required, catering arrangements, security shall be taken care by Railways.

Link of Guidelines by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: 

Link of stations as Annexure A: 


Ministry of Railways

[Press Release dt. 07-05-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Image Credits: Economic Times

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

As part of COVID-19 preparedness, it has been decided by Indian Railways that it would be prepared to modify 20000 coaches into quarantine/ isolation coaches to augment the quarantine facilities being created in the country.

In this connection consultations were held with Armed Forces Medical Services, Medical Department of various Zonal Railways, and Ayushman Bharat, Ministry of Health, Government of India.

Five Zonal Railways have already prepared prototypes for the quarantine/ isolation coaches.

These modified 20000 coaches can accommodate upto 3.2 lac possible beds for isolation needs.

Work on modification of 5000 coaches, which are to be converted initially into quarantine/ isolation coaches has already started. These 5000 coaches would be having capacity to accommodate upto 80000 beds. One coach is expected to have 16 beds for isolation.

Only Non-AC ICF sleeper coaches are being planned to be utilized for conversion into Quarantine/ isolation coaches. One Indian style toilet is to be converted into a bathing room. It is to be equipped with bucket, mug and soap dispenser. Taps with lift type handle would be provided in washbasins. Similar tap to be provided at proper height so that bucket can be filled.

The  first  cabin  near  the  bathing  room  shall  be  provided  with  two hospital/ plastic curtains transversely in the aisle so that the entry and exit to the entire eight berth cabins can be screened off. This cabin will be used as store/paramedics area. Two Oxygen cylinders will also be provided by the Medical department for which suitable clamping arrangement on the side berth side of this cabin is to be provided.

Both middle berths are to be removed in each cabin. Extra bottle holders shall be provided in each cabin for holding medical equipment, two for each berth. Extra 3 peg coat hooks, 2 per cabin to be provided. Mosquito net to be provided on windows to avoid mosquito entry inside and have proper ventilation too. Each cabin will be provided with 3 dustbins with foot operated lids of Red, Blue and Yellow Colour suitably lined with garbage bags.

For insulation of the coaches, Bamboo/Khus mats may be affixed/ pasted on roof and each side of coach above and below windows to shield effect of heat inside coach. All charging points for laptop and mobile to be functional. It must be ensured that all amenity fittings are in place when ever the coaches are requisitioned.

*Read the detailed press release here: Press Release


Ministry of Railways

[Press Release dt. 31-03-2020]

[Source: PIB]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

1. In continuation of the measures taken in the wake of COVID-19, it has been decided that all passenger train services on Indian Railways including Premium trains, Mail/Express trains, Passenger trains, Suburban Trains, Kolkata Metro Rail, Konkan Railway etc shall be cancelled till the 2400hrs of 31.03.2020. However, bare minimum level of services of suburban trains and Kolkata Metro Rail shall continue upto 2400 hrs of 22.03.2020.

2. Trains which had already commenced their journey, prior to 0400 hrs of 22.03.2020, will run up to their destinations. Adequate arrangements shall be made for the passengers, who have commenced their journey during the travel and at their destinations.

3. To ensure the essential supplies in various parts of the country, movement of goods trains will continue.

4. To make it more convenient for passengers, full refund for all cancelled trains may be taken till 21.06.2020. Adequate arrangements shall be made to facilitate hassle-free refund to passengers affected by train cancellations.


Ministry of Railways

[Source: PIB]

[Press Release dt. 22-03-2020]

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

Union Cabinet has given its approval forsigning a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department for International Development (Government of United Kingdom) on 02.12.2019 for Enabling Energy Self-Sufficiency for Indian Railways.

Implementation Strategy and targets

The   MoU   signed   by   Ministry   of   Railways   with   Department for   International Development (Government of United Kingdom) for Enabling Energy Self-Sufficiency for Indian Railways with the following understanding: –

a.  The Parties agree on the scope of activities to be undertaken as a part of the endeavor for enabling energy efficiency and energy self-sufficiency for the Indian Railways.

b.   Each Participant will, subject to the laws, rules, regulations and national policies fromtime to time in force  governing  the  subject  matter  in  their  respective  countries, endeavour to take  necessary steps to enable energy efficiency and  energy  self-sufficiency for Indian Railways.

c.   The parties agree for Energy planning for Indian Railways i.e. Solar & Wind Energysector, Adopting energy efficiency practices, Enabling Fuel efficiency, Electric Vehiclecharging infrastructure deployment, Battery operated Shunting Locomotives. Capacitydevelopment like training programmes, industrial visits, field visits etc. or any other form co-operation may be approved in writing by the Participants.

d.  The Participants will coordinate the activities, as appropriate, under this MoU. Nothing in this MoU will be construed to prejudice existing or future arrangements for co­operation between the participants.

e.   Blither participant may request in writing a revision, modification or amendment to all or any part of this MoU. Any revision, modification or amendment approved by the Participants will form part of the revised MoU. Such revision, modification or amendment will come into effect on such date as may be determined by the Participants.

f.   This Memorandum of Understanding shall come into force on its signing by the duly authorized representatives of the Parties and any of the Party may terminate this MoU by written communication addressed to the other, in which case, termination of MoU shall take effect six months after receipt of such written communication.

g.  The termination of this MoU will not affect the implementation of ongoing projects and / or programmes which have been agreed before the date of the termination of this MoU. Necessarily, areas of cooperation and forms of cooperation will continue to be enforced for ongoing projects and programmes which have been agreed before the date of the termination of this MoU.

h.  Any dispute or difference between the Parties shall be settled through mutual consultations and negotiations between the participants.

Background:

Ministry of Railways have signed MoUs/ MoCs for co-operation covering technical, policy, research & commercial aspects in field of development of energy sector. The objective of the programme is to support structural reforms and the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid. To be more specific, it aims to achieve more sustainable and inclusive economic growth, better energy security and reduced carbon emissions.

The MoUs/ MoCs provide a platform for Indian Railways to interact and share the latest developments and knowledge in the railway sector. The MoUs/ MoCs facilitate exchange of technical experts, reports and technical documents, training and seminars/workshops focusing on specific technology areas like Renewable Energy and other interactions for knowledge sharing.


Cabinet

[Press Release dt. 08-01-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

Railway Board has approved works for provision of Video Surveillance System covering 983 stations under Nirbhaya funds

In order to enhance security at Railway stations which are major hubs of transportation, Indian Railways is in the process of installing Internet Protocol (IP) based Video Surveillance System (VSS) at stations, that is, waiting halls, reservation counters, parking areas, main entrance/ exit, platforms, foot overbridges, booking offices, etc. Railway Board has approved works for the provision of Video Surveillance System covering 983 stations over Indian Railways under Nirbhaya funds. This year a budget of Rs. 250 crore was allotted to Indian Railways from the Nirbhaya fund for installation of the video surveillance system.

RailTel, a Miniratna PSU under the Ministry of Railways, has been entrusted with the work of providing IP based VSS with video analytics and facial recognition system. To have better coverage and clearer image, four types of Full HD Cameras – Dome type (for indoor areas), Bullet type (for platforms), Pan Tilt Zoom type (for parking areas) and Ultra HD- 4k cameras (for crucial locations) are being provided. CCTV camera lives feeds are displayed on multiple screens at the Railway Protection Force (RPF) control room for monitoring. Each HD camera at the station consumes approximately 1TB of data and 4k camera consumes 4 TB data per month. The recording of the video feeds from CCTV cameras will be stored for 30 days for playback, post-event analysis and for investigation purposes. Important videos can be stored for a longer duration.

Talking about the project of providing Video Surveillance System, Puneet Chawla, Chairman and Managing Director, RailTel said that in the first phase, VSS is being installed at 200 stations Pan India and as on date work has been completed at 81 stations across India. The Video Surveillance System will be extended to other stations and coaches soon. The work is being done utilizing the Nirbhaya fund for ensuring better safety for women.

In phase-I that is targeted for this year, South Western Railway (SWR) has recently commissioned Video Surveillance system (CCTV) at 6 major stations – Ballari by providing 33 Cameras, Belagavi with 36 Cameras, Vasco-Da Gama with 36 Cameras, Bengaluru Cantt with 21 Cameras, Bangarpet with 36 Cameras, Hassan with 36 Camera and at 3 Stations at Hassan, Shivamogga Town & Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam, work is under progress and will be commissioned shortly. Integrated security systems comprising CCTV have already been installed at 11 stations including Bengaluru with 71 Cameras, Yesvantpur with 35 Cameras, and Mysuru with 34 Cameras. This SWR has functional CCTV at 17 locations and will complete the work in Phase-I by having CCTV functional at total 20 railway stations by end of January 2020. Security personnel can monitor these cameras not only from station control rooms but also from Central Security Control Rooms located at Divisional HQ, i.e, Hubballi, Mysuru and Bengaluru.

Internet Protocol (IP) based Video Surveillance System (VSS) has also been installed at 10 Railway stations of Western Railway namely  Bhavnagar Terminus, Udhna, Valsad, Veraval, Nagda, Navsari, Vapi, Viragam, Rajkot, Gandhidham. This Video Surveillance System is expected to ensure better security of passengers at railway stations and railway property.


Ministry of Railways

[Press Release dt. 08-01-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

Union Cabinet has approved a transformational organisational restructuring of the Indian Railways. This historic reform will go a long way in achieving the Government’s vision of making Indian Railways the growth engine of India’s Vikas Yatra.

The reforms include:

  1. Unification of the existing eight Group A services of the Railways into a Central Service called Indian Railway Management Service (/RMS)
  2. Re-organisation of Railway Board on functional lines headed by CRB with four Members and some Independent Members
  3. The existing service of Indian Railway Medical Service (IRMS) to be consequently renamed as Indian Railway Health Service (IRHS).

Cabinet

[Source: PIB]

[Press Release dt. 24-12-2019]

NewsTreaties/Conventions/International Agreements

Indian Railways have undertaken some major Green initiatives as part of India’s contribution towards mitigation of global warming and combating climate change. To carry forward this green initiative, an MoU was signed between Ministry of Railways and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) for facilitation of green initiatives in Indian Railways at New Delhi today in the presence of the  Minister of State of Railways, Shri Suresh C. Angadi, Director General of CII Shri Chandrajit Banerjee, Member, Rolling Stock, Shri Rajesh Agarwal and other Railway Board Officials.

The objectives of the MoU:

  1. Energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities and railway workshops.
  2. Greening of Railway properties.
  3. Demonstrative pilots of ‘net-zero energy buildings/ railway stations’.
  4. Capacity and skill development by continuous sharing of best practices on energy and environment through training programmes.
  5. Development of Green procurement policy, waste management policy, solid waste disposal, carbon neutrality, phytoremediation.

Three Coffee Table Publications –one each on Energy Efficiency, GreenCo Rating and Green Buildings(including railway stations) were also released for wide circulation as part of efforts taken by the Indian Railways team as envisaged in MoU.

Indian Railways & CII have been working together since the signing of MOU in 2016 on Green Rating & Energy Efficiency Studies of IR’s Production Units & major workshops and after assessment in last three years, 50 Railway Units including workshops and production units have achieved GreenCo certification. In addition, 12 Railway stations and 16 more buildings and other facilities have also achieved Green certification.

GreenCo rating system developed by CII evaluates the green initiative and the rate of performance of industrial units who are pursuing environmentally sustainable practice and also certifies green building, green campus and green schools, etc.


Ministry of Railways

[Press Release dt. 13-09-2019]