Justice Lalit to probe into the allegations of Compensation Scam in Railway Claims Tribunal/Patna

Besides the probe by a Supreme Court judge, the Railways is also in the process of referring the case to the CBI.
Uday U Lalit, Supreme Court Judge

PATNA: A senior Supreme Court judge will probe into the alleged multi -crore compensation scam in the Railway Claim Tribunal (RCT) at Patna, involving its Judicial Member R. K. Mittal, and a group of lawyers.

The Chief Justice of India has nominated Justice Uday U. Lalit to probe the case during the tenure of Mittal in Patna Bench of RCT, from May 5, 2015 to August 6, 2017.

A gazette notification has been issued to this effect. Besides the probe by a Supreme Court judge, the Railways is also in the process of referring the case to the CBI, it is reliably learnt.

According to Railways, there are many people involved in the compensation racket, and the CBI probe would include aspects related to the possible corruption by the local officials of Indian Railways, the Patna Bench, as well as the Reserve Bank of India, other banks and lawyers who, according to the charges, were in collusion with Mittal.

The scope of the probe by Justice Lalit would be to determine wrongdoings by the tribunal judge in awarding compensations.

“Justice Lalit will probe into the alleged compensation scam worth crores of rupees involving filing of fraudulent claims and directly depositing the amount in the claimant’s account,” said a senior official. Mittal has since been transferred to the Ernakulam Bench of RCT.

The Railway Claims Tribunals (RCTs) awards financial compensation for 41 categories of injuries, including amputation at the hip and fracture of the spine, in train mishaps.

According to the Railways, a group of five lawyers in active collusion with RK Mittal, Member (Judicial) of Patna Bench RCT, have allegedly collected the compensation amounts twice over the same cases.

RCT chairman had earlier written to the Railway Board chairman about the alleged involvement of Mittal in awarding compensation fraudulently to claimants in total violations of rules, in collusion with five lawyers to derive unlawful monetary benefits.

“It has been noticed that a group of five lawyers have represented 91 per cent of all the applications, and collected the awarded amounts twice over for same cases, with the help of Mittal, as all these happened during his period,” a senior Railway Ministry official stated.

Railway Ministry is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for making an inquiry into the allegations against Mittal, and accordingly has referred the case to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for nomination of a judge of the apex court for conducting an inquiry into the case.

RCT Chairman had conducted an internal inquiry and found that Mittal, in his capacity as Judicial Member, had issued warrants to Reserve Bank of India for nearly 950 cases directing remittances to bank accounts, which were not verified to be the bank accounts mentioned in applications submitted by the claimants.

The lawyers, who represented the majority of these cases, took benefit of deposits made by the RBI in obedience to the warrants issued by Mittal. Double payments have been identified in 74 cases.

“There were certain imputations of misbehaviour of RK Mittal, Member (Judicial) of RCT, Patna. Imputations are mainly brazen violations of statutory rules,” it was noted.

Indian Railways has also sought the response of the regional director of RBI’s Patna branch on the issue.

The irregularity committed by RBI/Patna by directly crediting the decreed amount in the claimant’s account without following the prescribed procedure may be looked into, and action taken in the matter may be intimated to this office,” Railway Ministry stated in a letter to the concerned RBI authority.

In 2016, the Railways decided to double the compensation paid to train accident victims from coming January, a little over a month after 140 passengers died in the Indore-Patna Express derailment.

According to a Railways notification, the immediate family of a passenger, who died in a train accident, will now get Rs 8 lakh instead of Rs 4 lakh. A passenger facing serious injuries like loss of limbs or facial disfigurement will also be paid Rs 8 lakh instead of Rs 4 lakh.

Railway Minister usually announces “ex-gratia” compensation to accident victims. This amount is sometimes adjusted with the final claim awards of the RCT, unless otherwise clarified in the notification.

Payments in cases leading to amputation due to a shoulder injury have been hiked from Rs 3,60,000 to Rs 7,20,000 and from Rs 1,20, 000 to Rs 2,40,000 in the case of loss of thumb. The compensation amount for loss of two fingers of one hand has also been increased from Rs 80,000 to Rs 1,60,000.