Guide to Railway Claims Tribunal

The management of the railways is not only limited to the operation of the railway, it is more than that. The functioning of the railways also includes problems such as the loss or damage to the goods of train passengers, Non- delivery of goods, thefts, injury- causing accidents and deaths of both passengers and ordinary people, and many more issues. The Railway Administration’s substantive responsibility for these issues is laid down in the Railway Act, 1989.

Since it is difficult to obtain quick judgment in normal courts, because there are a large number of cases in all these courts and all because the process of obtaining justice in these courts is somewhat complex. Thus, under the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, which came into force on 8 November 1989, the Railway Claims Tribunal was established to provide rail users and passengers with speedy compensation for rail accident victims, to indemnify the people whose goods are lost or damaged on railways. Various tribunal benches are established in the country to provide better access to people throughout the country.

CHAIRMAN

Hon’ble Mr. Justice K K Kannan is the current chairman of the Court of Railway Claims, Main Bench (Delhi Bench). The President shall hold the office for a period of five years from the date on which he enters or until he reaches the age of sixty- five.

POWERS OF THE CHAIRMAN

  • Financial and administrative powers of chairman

The chairman, pursuant to Section 11 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, has the authority to exercise such financial and administrative powers over the benches under the Railway Claims Tribunal Rules, 1989.

Rule 4 of the Railways Claim Tribunal (Financial and Administrative Powers) Rules, 1989 states that the Chairman shall have the powers conferred on the General Manager of the railway administration in respect of matters specified in the schedule.

  • Additional powers of chairman

The Chairman of the Railway Claims Tribunal, 1987, pursuant to Article 3 of Section 4, has the power to transfer a Vice- Chairman or other member from one bench to another. Under paragraph 3 of Section 4 of the Court of Railway Claims, 1987, The Chairman shall have the power to authorize the Vice- Chairman or the other Judicial or Technical Member appointed to a bench to perform the duties of the Vice- Chairman or, as the case may be, the Judicial or Technical Member of another bench as well.

AIM AND MISSIONS

The Railway Claims tribunal is established to meet the objectives given.

  • To ensure speedy and rapid adjudication of the people.
  • To establish a simple procedure consisting of less formality by a specialized tribunal.
  • Building benches throughout the country to provide better access to justice.
  • The burden of the courts of law as railway cases is now reduced by a specialized tribunal.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction of the tribunal

The Railway Claims Tribunal shall exercise all such jurisdiction, powers and authority as any Civil Court or Claims Commissioner appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Railways Act relating to:

  1. The responsibility of the railway authorities as carriers under Chapter VII of the Railways Act with regard to claims relating to:
    1. compensation for loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non- delivery of animals or goods entrusted to the railway administration for transport by rail,
    2. Compensation payable in accordance with Sec. 124 & 124A of the Railways Act in accordance with the rules laid down therein;
  2. And claims for reimbursement or reimbursement of any goods paid in respect of animals or goods entrusted to a railway administration to be carried by rail.

BENCHES ACROSS THE NATION

The RCT (Railway Claims Tribunal) has its benches throughout the nation to provide better access to justice for people. There are essentially 21 benches of the RCT in 18 major cities (including the main bench in Delhi).

PROCEDURE FOLLOWED BY RAILWAY CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

Section 18 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, deals with the Claims Tribunal’s procedures and powers.

  • The Claims Tribunal is not bound by the procedure set out in the code of Civil Procedure, 1908(5 of 1908).
  • However, it is governed by the principles of natural justice and is subject to other provisions of the Law and any rules.
  • The Claim Tribunal has the authority to regulate its own procedure, including the location and time of its investigation.

POWERS OF RAILWAY CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

Section 18 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, deals with the Claims Tribunal’s procedures and powers. The Claims Tribunal is not bound by the procedure set out in the Civil Procedure Code, 1908(5 of 1908).

COMPENSATION

In the following cases, the Railway Claims Tribunal essentially provides for more rapid relief and early compensation payments.

  • Death and injury in the event of a rail accident and in this case, the claimant must file the claim directly with the Railway Claims tribunal.
  • The claimant is not satisfied with the relief provided by the railway administration for loss, destruction, damage, deterioration, non- living of animals / goods booked by rail or for the reimbursement of the fare or freight.

APPEALS

If a person is not satisfied with the order of the Railway Claims tribunal, he or she may appeal. The appeal procedure is provided for in Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987.

  • Section 23 mentions an appeal of any order of the Claims Tribunal, subject to sub- section( 2) and anything contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908( 5 of 1908) or any other law( not an interlocutory order), The High Court shall have jurisdiction over the place in which the bench is situated.
  • In addition, it is stated in Clause 2 of the same section that no appeal is based on an order passed by the Claims Tribunal with the parties ‘ consent.
  • Clause 3 of the section states that each appeal is preferred within ninety days of the date of the appeal.

You must hire a lawyer or you can file your own case with the Court of Railway Claims

In accordance with section 19 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, a person who applies to the Claims Tribunal has the option to appear in person or to assist a legal practitioner of his or her choice in presenting his or her case to the Claims Tribunal. The railway administration may also authorize one or more legal practitioners or any of its officials to act as presenting officers, and each of these authorized persons may submit their case to the Claims Tribunal in respect of any application.

JUDGE IN THE TRIBUNAL

Section 4 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 states that the Claims Tribunal shall be composed of a Chairman, four Vice- Chairmen and as many Judicial and Technical Members as the Central Government considers appropriate. It also says that a bench is composed of a judicial member and a technical member.

QUALIFICATION

Section 5 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 describes the different qualifications for the appointment of President, Vice- Chairman or other members. Clause 1 of the Section states that a person shall not be eligible to be appointed President unless he

  • Is or has been a Judge of a High Court, or
  • Has held the office of Vice- Chairman for at least two years.

The President, the Vice- President and any other Member shall be appointed by the President only after consultation with the Indian Chief Justice.

TENURE

The office of the Chairman, Vice- Chairman or other Member( as in Section 7 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987) shall be for a period of five years from the date on which he enters his office or until he reaches his office. Or until he attains-

  • 65 years of age( in the case of the chairman) and
  • 62 years of age (in the case of the Vice- President or any other Member), whichever is earlier.

RESIGNATION

Clause 1 of Section 8 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, deals with the Chairman, Vice- Chairman and other Member’s resignation process. It says that the Chairman, Vice- Chairman or other members may resign their office by giving written notice under his hand addressed to the President.

It is also mentioned that unless the person resigns, the President is allowed to resign sooner, Till 3 months from the date of receipt of the notice, or until a person appointed to succeed him enters his office or until the expiry of his term of office (whichever is earlier), he shall continue to hold his office.

REMOVAL

Pursuant to Clause 2 of Section 8 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, the Chairman, Vice- Chairman or any other member shall be removed by the President only on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity after an inquiry has been made by a Supreme Court Judge in which that Chairman, The vice- president or other member was informed of the charges against him and he was given a reasonable opportunity to be heard.

ACTS AND RULES OF CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

  • RAILWAY CLAIMS TRIBUNAL ACT,1987

This Act provides for the establishment of a Railway Claims Tribunal to investigate and determine claims against a railway authority for any loss, destruction, damage, deterioration or non- limitation of animals or goods entrusted to it by rail or for the reimbursement of fares or freight, or for compensation for death or injury to passengers resulting from railway accidents or unwarranted incidents and related or incidental matters. The act deals with the jurisdiction, powers and authority of the Court of Claims and appeals and appeals proceedings. The Act also discusses various different provisions. This Act also lays down the following:

    • the jurisdiction, powers and authority that the Claims Tribunal may exercise;
    • the procedure( including the limitation provisions) to be followed by the Claims Tribunal;
    • Exclusion of jurisdiction from all courts exercising ordinary civil jurisdiction over specified compensation claims and reimbursement against the railway administration;
    • the transfer of any suit or other proceeding to the Claims Tribunal, other than an appeal pending before any Court or other authority immediately preceding the establishment of such a Tribunal as would have been within the jurisdiction of such Claims Tribunal if, after such establishment, the cause of the action on which such suits or proceedings are based arose.
  • RAILWAY CLAIMS TRIBUNAL (PROCEDURE) RULES 1989

These are the rules established by the Central Government concerning the procedure for filing applications, application fees, accompanying documents and other rules.

  • RAILWAY ACCIDENTS AND UNTOWARD INCIDENTS RULES, 1990

These are the rules laid down by the Central Government concerning claims for compensation, limitation of compensation in the case of railway accidents and incidents involving unfairness.

IMPORTANT JUDGEMENTS

Few important judgments will give a clear idea of how the Court of Railway Claims works and how and where court appeals are handled.

  • Abhinandan vs union of India

In this 2017 case, the Delhi High Court heard an appeal lodged under Section 23 of the Railways Claim Court. An order issued by the Railway Claims Tribunal in 2015 was challenged in this appeal, in which his claim was rejected. The Delhi High Court refused to indemnify this man who lost both his legs in an accident while boarding a train and observed that he was intoxicated during the accident.

The appellant’s reliance on the claim was based on Section 124A of the Act, which states that the injured person or legal heirs of a deceased passenger are entitled to compensation in the event of an accident. However, the proviso of the provision disqualifies a passenger if he is injured due to the intoxication status.

” The purpose of the various sub- sections mentioned in the provisions of Section 124A of the Railways Act is to provide for situations Where the accident is caused by self- inflicted injury and under which circumstances the accident is effectively self- inflicted, the accident shall not be covered by the term “incident” as provided for in the Railways Act. ”

  • Shyam narayan and others Vs union of India

In the present case, the Delhi High Court heard an appeal challenge order passed by the Railway Claims Tribunal in May 2016, submitted in accordance with Section 23 of the Railway Claims Court Act. In that order, the court had denied compensation for the death of a passenger because the deceased had died because of criminal negligence, according to the court.

Based on the first provision of Section 124-A of the Railways Act, which states that compensation shall be denied if death occurs due to suicide or suicide attempts, self- inflicted injury; Bonafide passenger’s own criminal act or an act perpetrated by the deceased in a state of intoxication or insanity, the court said that as the deceased tried to board a speeding train, the deceased’s act was a criminal negligence and upheld the court’s order.

The court held that “negligence will not prevent compensation under the Railways Act, but if negligence becomes criminal negligence and self- inflicted injury, compensation cannot be granted.”

WEBSITE OF RAILWAY CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

The Railway Claims Tribunal website gives users access to the Tribunal’s list of cases, status of cases, judgments and orders on a daily basis. It also provides users with information on laws, RCT (procedure), the Railway Act, provisions and notifications relating to different circulars. The claim for loss and damage can also be downloaded. Details about the Tribunal, its goals, aims, jurisdiction, banks, etc. are provided on the website.

RCT MEMBER’S FRAUD CASE

This year, in January shocking news of fraudulent compensation disbursement came from a member of the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT), R K Mittal, who alleged irregularities in the disbursement of around Rs 50 crore between 2015 and 2017, and a problem against him, according to the Indian Express report. The Chairman of the main bench, Justice (retired) K Kannan sent a letter to the Ministry of the Railways concerning the findings of the internal probe that Mittal was allegedly “complicit” with a group of five lawyers in Patna.

These lawyers accounted for 91 percent of all applicants who committed’ deliberate fraud’ on the railways between May 2015 and August 2017. One of the key findings was that Mittal allegedly issued 950 “recovery guarantees” directly to the Indian Reserve Bank, Patna, to deduct the money claimed from the railway’s account. In February of this year, the Railway handed over to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) a case against a member of the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) concerning the fraudulent payment of compensation.

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