Railway Claims Tribunal/Ahmedabad imposes fine on Western Railway for Indifferent Attitude and prolonged Delays

Ahmedabad (ADI): In a landmark judgment that will ensure that the railway ministry does not take the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) lightly, the RCT Ahmedabad has imposed an exemplary fine on Western Railway officials for what it called ‘indifferent attitude’ towards the functioning of the tribunal.

The RCT awards compensation to victims of train accidents, and hurdles in its functioning severely inconvenience thousands of families who lose their loved ones in such accidents.

The RCT Ahmedabad, in the judgment pronounced on Thursday, has ordered WR officials to pay a fine of Rs.100 per day for every case at the tribunal where arguments have got over but no judgment could be given because of lack of support staff — typists and stenographers. The support staff for all RCTs have to be provided by the railways and, in case of RCT Ahmedabad, by the WR.

Section 31 of the RCT (Procedure) Rules maintains that orders in a case must be passed not later than 21 days from the conclusion of arguments, something the RCT Ahmedabad has not been able to do in 134 cases because of lack of support staff. The fine covers all the 134 cases. Currently, out of a sanctioned strength of 21, the RCT Ahmedabad has only 10.

The order, given by RCT Ahmedabad Member (Technical) Nisheeth Misra and Member (Judicial) Dr Charan Singh, further laid down that the fine “shall not be paid from the railway revenue/public exchequer, but shall be recovered from the salary of the officials who have not provided sufficient PS/CA (private secretary/confidential assistants) to the RCT Ahmedabad bench”.

The order is expected to come as a wake-up call to the railway administration which for long has turned a blind eye to the working of the RCT. The RCT, a welfare legislation intended to give speedy compensation to people involved in railway accidents, is being defeated because of this indifferent attitude, which has seen case expenses up beyond permissible limits. RCT Ahmedabad has around 1,000 pending cases.

The country’s largest Railway Accident Claims Tribunal — the one in Mumbai — has been without a judge for over three-and-a-half months, leaving crores of people wanting to file accident compensation claims in the lurch.

The railway ministry has been unable to decide on a suitable candidate to fill up the post of member (technical) after the last incumbent — S Ananthanarayanan — retired after his stipulated three years on September 5 this year.

In November 2013 media had highlighted the issue of RCT Mumbai, which sees sees almost 12 to 14 claim cases being filed every day and has close to 4,000 cases pending, being without a judge for several months.