Union of India v. Rina Devi
The SC observed that death or injury in the course of boarding or de-boarding a train will be an ‘untoward incident’ entitling a victim to the compensation and the same cannot be denied on the plea of contributory negligence of the victim.
The bench resolved the conflicting views in the matter of quantum of compensation, definition of passenger and strict liability in Railway Accident Claims. It held as follows:
- Death or injury in the course of boarding or de-boarding a train will be an ‘untoward incident’ entitling a victim to the compensation and will not fall under the proviso to Section 124A merely on the plea of negligence of the victim as a contributing factor.
- Mere presence of a body on the Railway premises will 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 will not negative the claim that he was a bona fide passenger.
- The compensation will be payable as applicable on the date of the accident with interest as may be considered reasonable from time to time on the same pattern as in accident claim cases.
- Interest can be awarded from the date of accident itself when the liability of the Railways arises up to the date of payment, without any difference in the stages.
The bench proceeded to consider these issues:
- Whether the quantum of compensation should be as per the prescribed rate of compensation as on the date of application/incident or on the date of order awarding compensation;
- Whether the principle of strict liability applies;
- Whether the presence of a body near the railway track is enough to maintain a claim; and
- Rate of interest
Self-inflicted injury is not mere negligence of any particular degree The conflict in views expressed by the High Court is with regard to the proviso to Section 124A to the effect that no compensation is payable if a passenger dies or suffers injury due to the following:
- Suicide or attempted suicide by him;
- Self-inflicted injury; His own criminal act;
- Any act committed by him in a state of intoxication or insanity; and
- Any natural cause or disease or medical or surgical treatment unless such treatment becomes necessary due to injury caused by the said untoward incident.
Mere absence of ticket with such injured or deceased will not negative the claim that he was a bona fide passenger Another conflict was with regard to the issue whether any person found dead near the track on Railway Precincts can be held to be a bona fide passenger for maintainability of a claim for compensation in absence of recovery of a ticket from his body.
The liability will accrue on the date of the accident On the issue of compensation payable, the bench observed: “We are of the view that law in the present context should be taken to be that the liability will accrue on the date of the accident and the amount applicable as on that date will be the amount recoverable but the claimant will get interest from the date of accident till the payment at such rate as may be considered just and fair from time to time. In this context, the rate of interest applicable in motor accident claim cases can be held to be reasonable and fair.”
The court also said that compensation as applicable on the date of the accident has to be given with reasonable interest and to give effect to the mandate of beneficial legislation, if compensation, as provided on the date of award of the tribunal, is higher than unrevised amount with interest; the higher of the two amounts has to be given.