Sunil Kumar Ghosh vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Anr. on 10 March, 1983

Madhya Pradesh High Court
Sunil Kumar Ghosh vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Anr. on 10 March, 1983
Author: J S Verma
Bench: J Verma, M Malik


JUDGMENT

J. S. Verma, J.

1. This is an appeal under Section 82-F (2) of the Indian Railways Act against dismissal of a claim made in accordance with Section 82-C for award of compensation under Section 82-A of the Act.

2. The appellant Sunil Kumar Ghosh boarded 33 Down Indore-Bilaspur Express at Indore on 22-2-1976, in which he was travelling upto Katni on way to Satna, where he was employed as an Engineer. On the morning of 23-2-1976 at about 6.15 A. M., when the train was at Jabalpur railway station, the appellant was involved in an accident, as a result of which his right hand, was badly crushed. He was rushed to the Victoria Hospital at Jabalpur for treatment. However, his right hand had to be amputated above the elbow. The appellant then preferred a claim for award of compensation under Section 82-A of the Indian Railways Act before the Claims Commissioner, Railways at Jabalpur (Distt. Judge, Jabalpur). That claim has been dismissed. Hence this appeal.

3. The only question involved, in this appeal is whether Section 82-A of the Indian Railways Act applies to the present case. There is no dispute that in case Section 82-A is attracted, then the appellant is entitled to the award of Rs. 35,000/- as compensation, which is payable in respect of the personal injury sustained by him, namely, amputation of the right arm above the elbow in accordance with item no. (iii) in Part III of the Schedule to the Railway Accidents Compensation Rules 1950 read with Rule 6 therein. The dispute, however, is about the applicability of Section 82-A of the Act.

4. The facts not in controversy may first be stated. The appellant was a bona fide passenger travelling in a through Second, Class Sleeper Coach in that train, from Indore and was to get down at Katni for going to Satna. The appellant was accompanied by his wife and their small child. Three bogies were attached to that train at Bhopal which were detached at Jabalpur. During the shunting operations at Jabalpur railway station for the purpose of detaching the three bogies, which were at the rear end of the train behind the bogie in which the appellant was travelling, the appellant some-how fell out of the train near the water column at the end of the platform and his right hand was crushed by that part of the train, which was being shunted. The facts so far are not in controversy. The controversy on facts really is about the bogie from which the appellant actually fell out and the circumstances of his fall.

5. Learned counsel for the appellant contended that the undisputed facts alone are sufficient to attract Section 82-A of the Railways Act. In reply, learned cnunsel for the respondents argued that the words “accident to a train or any part of a train carrying passengers” occurring in sub-sec. (1) of Section 82-A clearly indicate that the accident has to be to a train or part thereof and not merely to the passenger. He argued that in the present case, the appellant, as a passenger, may have been involved in an accident, but not so the train, because the appellant appears to have fallen out due to his own negligence and there was no impact to the train itself.

6. Section 82-A reads as under: “82-A. Liability of Railway Administration in respect of accidents to trains carrying passengers.

(1) When in the course of working a railway an accident occurs, being either a collision between trains of which one is a train carrying passengers or the derailment of or other accident to a train or any part of a train carrying passengers, then, whether or not there has been any wrongful act, neglect or default on the part of the railway administration such as would entitle a person who has been injured or has suffered loss to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the railway administration shall notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, be liable to pay compensation to the extent set out in sub-section (2) and to that extent only for loss occasioned by the death of a passenger dying as a result of such accident and for personal injury and loss, destruction or deterioration of animals or goods owned by the passenger and accompanying the passenger in his compartment or on the train, sustained as a result of such accident.

(2) The liability of a railway administration under this section shall in no case exceed fifty thousand rupees in respect of any one person.”

7. Section 82-A creates a statutory liability of the railway administration in case of death of a passenger or personal injury to him as a result of an accident occurring in the course of work ing a Railway. The accident may be a collision between trains of which one is a passenger train or derailment or accident to a train or any part thereof carrying passengers. The meaning of the word “accident,” used m Section 82-A is of real significance. The context in which the word is used and the object of enacting this provision is to be kept in view in construing the meaning of the word “accident”. The object of Section 82-A clearly is to provide that railway tit) ministration shall be liable to pay compensation for loss occasioned by death of or personal injury to a pas-stnger and also for loss, destruction or deterioration of animals or goods of the passenger caused due to an ‘accident in course of working a railway’, irrespective of the question of liability under the general law which depends on negligence. In other words, and briefly slated, Section 82-A applies when a pas senger travelling by a train meets with an accident in the course of working a railway resulting in his death or personal injury without any reference to the question of negligence. The death of a passenger or personal injury to him during the course of his rail journey gives rise to the liability of the railway administration for payment of compensation in the manner prescribed by the Railway Accidents Compensation Rules, 1950 and the Schedule appended to it.

8. The word “accident”, according to its ordinary meaning, which must be given to it and construed in the context in which it is used in Section 82-A must mean, to include within its ambit all incidents resulting in the death of or bodily injury to any passenger during his rail journey, occurring in the course of working a railway, if it involves a passenger train or a part thereof. Any incident treated as a railway accident involving a passenger train by the purch lic at large and the railway staff should be treated to be such an accident, falling within the ambit of Section 82-A. Any mishap or misfortune in the working of a railway involving a passenger train or a part thereof resulting in the death of or personal injury to a passenger travelling therein, during his rail journey is an accident within the ambit of Section 82-A. This will, of course, exclude any incident voluntarily and consciously invited by the passenger, e. g., suicide by jumping in front of the moving train. We have, therefore, to see whether to the facts of this case, Section 82-A applies.

9. Even if the respondents’ version be accepted, Section 82-A is attracted. According to the respondents’ pleading in the written statement, the injury was sustained by the appellant in giving to the rear end of the train and possibly boarding one of the bogies which was being detached during the shunting operation and in this process he appears to have been hit by the water column when these bogies (a part of the train) were being moved during the shunning operation. The respondents contend that this negligent act is of the appellant himself for which there is no liability of the respondents. The question of negligence is obviously not relevant under Section 82-A, which raises a statutory liability irrespective of the question of negligence. The only question is whether such an incident amounts to an accident within the ambit of Section 82-A. The construction, we have made of the word “accident” occurring in Section 82-A, clearly shows that personal injury sustained by a passenger during his rail journey as a result of shunting operationl of a part of the passenger train satisfies the requirement of Section 82-A.

10. Shri Pathak, learned counsel for the respondents, however, contended that the accident must be to a passenger train and not to a passenger, since the expression used in Section 82-A is “accident to a train”. In our opinion this subtle distinction, as pointed cut by learned counsel for the respondents, is unreal in the present context. The accident in such a case involves not, only the passenger, but also the train. The expression “accident to a train” only means an accident involving a passenger train or a part thereof and not necessarily an accident resulting from an impact to the train itself.

11. It would be significant at this stage to refer to the extract from the Assistant Station Master’s Diary (Ex. P. A-l), at the Jabalpur railway station which was written soon after this accident. The Asstt. Station Master on duty, after this accident, wrote that one passenger was run over near the water column and his right hand was cut and was hanging with the body; and this had happened while detaching three bogies from the 33 Down Train at about 630 A.M. It is clear from ‘.his entry in the Assistant Station Master’s diary also that the railway staff on duty treated this incident as a railway accident occurring in the course of working a railway, which was an accident to the 33 Down passenger train during shunting to detach three bogies from that train. In our opinion, there is no reason to construe the word “accident to a train” in a manner different from that in which it was understood even by the railway staff at the time when the accident occurred.

12. Learned counsel for the respondents contended that the version given cut by the appellant is untrue and, therefore, he cannot succeed. It is sufficient to say that relief can be granted to the appellant even on the respondents’ pleading and the conclusion we have reached follows even from the version in respondents’ pleading.

13. We are accordingly of the opinion that Section 82-A is clearly attracted in order to raise the liability of the Railway administration to pay compensation to the appellant in the manner prescribed. There is no dispute that the prescribed amount of compensation to which the appellant is entitled on this conclusion is Rs. 35,000/-.

14. Accordingly, this appeal is allowed. The appellant is awarded Rupees 35,000/- (Rupees Thirty Five Thousand Only) as compensation to be paid by the respondent no. 1. The appellant shall also get costs throughout. Counsel’s fee Rs. 200/-, if certified.

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