A district consumer forum in Delhi has ordered the railways to pay Rs 60,000 to a passenger who alleged a thief stole almost Rs 50,000 from him during an overnight trip from Patna to Delhi in the summer of 2009.
Delhi resident Zameer Ahmed had alleged two railway guards who were travelling in the Sampoorna Kranti Express coach either weren’t doing their job or had connived with the thief.
The three-member forum ruled that the railway board could not invoke Section 100 of the Indian Railway Act to escape liability because they appeared to have been negligent and did not act promptly on Ahmed’s complaint.
Section 100 gives the railways immunity from loss of any article carried by a passenger unless it was attributed to negligence or misconduct of staffers.
“We, therefore... direct the OP (opposite party) to pay Rs 60,000 in lump sum towards principal amount, harassment, mental agony and litigation charges,” forum president NK Goel and members Naina Bakshi and SS Fonia said in an order last month.
The theft dates back to May 2009 when Ahmed was returning from a business trip to Patna.
He had just entered the coach when two Railway Protection Force guards decided to frisk him.
He told them he was carrying Rs 47,200 in a hidden pocket of his underwear when they asked him to explain the bulge near his waist. They were satisfied and let him go to his seat.
Ahmed went off to sleep some time later.
He woke up somewhere between Mughalsarai and Kanpur stations only to discover that someone had slit his trousers and underwear and stolen the money.
He raised an alarm and approached the guards for help. But they were rude, blamed him for the loss and refused to give him the complaint book.
One of the co-passengers later told him he had seen a young man accompanied by the two guards near his berth during the night. “They were the only ones who knew where the money was,” Ahmed said.
He eventually filed a police complaint in Delhi about the theft, and shot off complaints to the railways. But later when he filed a right to information request, it turned out the police had closed the case within months without a proper probe. He was also told that an internal inquiry against the guards had given them a clean chit.
Ahmed said he expected the railways to spend more public money to file an appeal against the decision in the state forum. “But now, I am ready... It isn’t just about the money but also to get the railways to hold its staff accountable,” he said.