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Sunday, February 8, 2015

SC directs Railways to pay ~ man chasing train dies of cardiac arrest !!!

Train journey is most enjoyable as one can spend time leisurely eating the choicest delicacies looking through the window  at the different culture, fields, people and more … as the train chughs past different areas.  Sadly we read about train accidents and loss of lives, somewhat frequently …

Railways, as Carriers are liable to pay compensation to passengers who unfortunately become victims of accidents.  Unlike road accidents and air passengers, the liability of Railways is restricted and limited as defined under the Railways Act 1989.   Under Section 123 (c) of The Railways Act 1989, travellers  are entitled to compensation for loss of life and injuries of their involvement in a railway accident or untoward incident. The compensation for death under the schedule is Rs.4 lakhs only. Times of India [Chennai edition dt 24.1.2015]  reports of a case where a man chasing a train and dying of cardiac arrest was awarded Rs. 4 lakhs by Supreme Court.   

Here is the article reproduced :
The man, Durai Somanathan, was running on the Dindigul station platform, trying to tell his wife and daughter that they had boarded the wrong train as it started moving out of the station when he suffered a cardiac arrest. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu dismissed the railways' petition more out of compassion for the distressed family than on a point of law. The railways appeared to make a strong case that it had not contributed in any way for the death which was due to natural causes and hence it was not liable to pay.  Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi too pleaded for the court to decide the issue on merit while promising to deposit Rs 4 lakh with interest in the court to prove the Southern Railways' bona fide. But, the court said it would keep the law point - liability of the railways for natural deaths in platforms - for future.  The case presented an interesting story and the benevolent side of the judiciary.

Durai Somanathan bought a train ticket at Dindigul station to travel to Kumbhakonam on March 4, 2007. He along with wife Elambal and daughter S Bhanumathi boarded a train. Just before the train was to leave the station, he realized that they have boarded a wrong train as it was going to Erode.  He hurried his wife and daughter asking them to alight. He got off. But, his wife and daughter could not and the train started to chug out of the station. As it picked up speed, Somanathan started running along with the train shouting at his wife and daughter to jump out of the train.  For a while he ran along the train. But soon he suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed in the station. The police lodged an FIR and conducted post-mortem. The doctor identified the cause of death as cardiac arrest and of natural causes. Autopsy report also specifically said that the cause of the death was not due to any fall from train as there was no physical injury to the body.

The  widow and her four children still  filed a claim of Rs 4 lakh against Southern Railways in the railways claims tribunal. The tribunal in July, 2009 dismissed the claim holding that though the deceased was a bona fide passenger of the train, his case did not fall into the ambit of the provision of "untoward incident" under Section 123 of Railway Act, making the authorities liable for compensation.  She and her children appealed before the Madras high court. The HC on September 17, 2013, held that death due to cardiac arrest on railway platform could be categorized under 'untoward incident' and directed the Southern Railways to pay Rs 4 lakh as compensation with 6% interest till July 30, 2008. It said 9% interest would be applicable after July 30, 2008 on the amount due.

In its appeal, the Railways claimed that Somanathan was taking continuous treatment for 10 years prior to his death for chest pain and hence, the death could not be attributed to any negligence on the part of railways or categorized as an 'untoward incident' on platform.  Like the HC, the Supreme Court too felt that the amount was too meager for the AG to argue against compensation being paid to the widow and dismissed the appeal.

While the humanitarian gesture is appreciable, Railways clearly was not liable legally, as this case reveals …..
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

28th Jan 2015

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