Railways can’t blame rooftop travel, state authorities: Apex Court

Step in, be compassionate; don’t blame mishaps on rooftop travel, SC tells Railways

14 youths were killed and several others injured on Monday when they fell from the roof of two speeding trains crammed with job aspirants returning from an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) recruitment camp in Bareilly in UP. The incidents triggered violent protests as angry youths torched a train.
14 youths were killed and several others injured when they fell from the roof of two speeding trains crammed with job aspirants returning from an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) recruitment camp in Bareilly in UP. The incidents triggered violent protests as angry youths torched a train.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the railways should take steps to avoid accidents and ensure the safety of its passengers, instead of trying to shift the blame on rooftop travel or the over bridges constructed by the state or municipal authorities.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Uday Umesh Lalit made the observation while directing the Railways to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of at least 14 job aspirants killed after getting crushed between the train’s rooftop and the ceiling of over bridge in Shahajahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, on February 1, 2011.

Another 20 were seriously injured.The victims were travelling on the rooftop of the Himgiri Express to go back to their home states following cancellation of a recruitment drive of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to be held in Bareilly. The border force suspended the drive as it was unable to handle over 2 lakh aspirants from 11 states who had descended on Bareilly.

Rejecting the railways’ contention that it was not responsible for the accident, the apex court said though the people who travelled on rooftop also contributed to the mishap, the “Railway Administration, in our view, was not free from blame.” The railways should have been aware of the inherent danger in allowing the train to run with such speed having a large number of persons travelling on rooftop, the Bench noted.

The train could be stopped only after it had travelled three kilometres from the accident spot, the Bench noted. The SC also directed the railways to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to every passenger who suffered permanent disability and Rs 75,000 each for those injured grievously.

The railways should set up a committee headed by a senior officer and consisting of at least three other experts with technical knowledge to identify all infringements on the railway tracks such as over bridges constructed either by it or by state or municipal administrations and remove them in the shortest possible time, but not later than two years. The committee should submit status reports to the SC every six months.

The SC also directed the central police organisations to call only limited number of candidates for recruitment drives so that the Bareilly-type incident did not recur.

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