Monday, July 16, 2007

Accountability from Indian Railways? You must be kidding

This story is unbelievable but very welcome and appreciated... some hope in a bright future...


In Japan, if a train is late by more than a few minutes, it is said that the Railways pay the consumer some compensation, or at least refund them their fare for the journey. Most Indian consumers would laugh even at the thought of the Indian Railways offering them such a facility.

That is why the order of the Andhra Pradesh State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission in a recent matter (General Manager, South Central Railway vs. Vinod Sanghi & another) will come as a whiff of fresh air to the suffering Indian commuter.

Sanghi and a companion had booked tickets from Hyderabad to Delhi by Train No 2723, and had a further booking from Delhi to Haridwar, by a connecting train.

The Hyderabad-Delhi train was supposed to have reached Delhi by 8.40 am and the Delhi-Haridwar train was to leave some time shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the train from Hyderabad was delayed by four hours, the passengers missed their onward connection and had to travel by another train for which the railways charged them an additional Rs500.

Sanghi protested against the unfair charge being levied on him. The railway refused to listen and Sanghi was forced to cough up the money. Sanghi then approached the District Forum at Hyderabad for the redressal. But the railways said the derailment of another train en route was the reason for the train to be delayed. They further stated that the consumers had thereafter cancelled their original tickets and bought fresh tickets for the other train.

After hearing both parties, the District Forum came to the conclusion that the delay in catching and/or missing the onward train was entirely the Railways fault and it would not be just to penalise the consumers for the same.

The District Forum held in the facts and circumstances of the case, the consumers should be paid a sum of Rs110, which they had lost on the cancelled tickets, refund of Rs500 that they paid in addition for the new tickets and a compensation of Rs500 for the harassment meted out to them.

The Railways went in appeal against the order, primarily on the ground that the claim should have been filed with the Railway Claims Tribunal and not in the Consumer Forum.

The State Commission negated this claim saying that the Consumer Protection Act was enacted specifically for relief to consumers. It said the District Forum was right in ordering the compensation to the aggrieved consumer and refused to interfere with the order of the lower court.


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