Have you ever faced any kind of harassment while traveling in a train, due to the negligence of the railway authorities? Remember, the Indian railways network is among one of the largest in the world. People in India trust rail travel as one of the safest and fastest ways to reach a destination in any part of the country. Typically, the railway administration in India is managed by the Ministry of Railways. The Consumer Protection Act has provisions to protect the rights of consumers while traveling by train.
The Consumer Protection Act is applicable to goods and services. It protects and safeguards the rights and interests of consumers. This is also applicable to the Indian Railways. The Railways provide the services to the passenger for a fixed fare. From the moment you pay for the services, you become a consumer. That is how the scope of Section 2(1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act covers the facilities relating to transport. Any deficiency in offering the services is covered under the Consumer Protection Act.
The following instances indicate ‘bad services’ by the Indian railways:
- The failure of the Railways staff to check the entry of people who travel illegally, which means they do not pay for the ticket at all but they travel to the desired destination.
- In cases where the passenger is granted reservation for a particular train but on that day, the train does not even run.
- In a situation when the railways attendant declines to provide AC II Berths after the reservations are confirmed. In such cases, a compensation amounting Rs. 2000 can be awarded.
- In cases where the railways staff willingly allows unauthorized passengers to travel.
- In instances where the public is kept waiting for reservations and VIPs are given priority and given reservations. In such cases, the complainant may be awarded over Rs.1000.
In Union of India v. Manoj H. Pathak, (1996) II CPR 132 (NDRC), the complainant and his parents took their reserved seats in compartment of Gujarat Express train. According to the complainant, about 10 to15 people entered their compartment at Dadar and they were traveling without tickets.
By force, they occupied the reserved seats that belonged to the complainant and his parents. The complainant tried to contact the conductor, police and the ticket checker but the group of hooligans attacked him. This resulted in fracture of the complainant’s vertebral column, thereby leading to permanent disability.
The railway administration’s defence was that law and order maintenance was the duty of Ministry of Home Affairs. The National Commission held that this amounted to carelessness on the part of the Railway administration. It was held that it is every consumer’s right to be unharmed during a train journey. Any person(s) traveling in an unauthorized way must be subjected to legal trial. In this case, the Railway administration was held accountable for negligence in their services.