SC awards compensation to Shahjahanpur rail accident victims

Anil Kumar Gupta v. Union of India & Ors.


In a recruitment drive, Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had called candidates to submit their forms for registration in person at Bareilly. As around two lakh aspirants arrived, being unable to manage the situation, the drive was suspended. There was massive law and order problem and lathi charge and tear gas was used. The aspiring candidates rushed to rail and road terminals to return back to their homes, the train coaches were all jam packed and many climbed atop Himgiri Express. While the train was speeding fast, an accident took place in Shahjahanpur at a Railway overbridge which was not tall enough and the gap between the roof of the coach and the overbridge was very less.  Fourteen aspirants were crushed to death and twenty others seriously injured having been hit by the overbridge and fallen from roof top and some received electric shocks.

The writ petition was filed for directions for finding out reasons for loss of lives, for assessment of damage to property and for grant of compensation or financial assistance to victims. Also directions for laying down guidelines for necessary precautions and care to be taken so that such tragedy is not repeated again were sought for. The Supreme Court held that Railway Administration was responsible for not taking sufficient precaution. The Administration alone would be in a position to know about the existence of infringements with regard to certain structures and what could be possible implications if the train were to run at a great speed with large number of people on roof top. Hence reasonable care was expected of those incharge of the Administration. The Supreme Court observed that though the people who travelled on roof top also contributed to the mishap, the Railway Administration was liable. Following Chairman, Railway Board v. Chandrima Das, (2000) 2 SCC 465 and M.S. Grewal v. Deep Chand Sood, (2001) 8 SCC 151 where the Supreme Court deliberated on the issue of liability of Railways and the concept of ‘duty of care’, in the present case the Court directed that the next of kin of those who died in the incident and those who sustained injuries must be duly compensated by the Railway Administration taking into account the young age of the aspirants. The Railway Administration was directed to pay compensation of Rs.5 lakhs to the next of kin in case of every death; Rs.1.5 lakhs in every case of permanent disability suffered by anyone in the incident; Rs.75,000/- in case of any grievous injury suffered by anyone; and Rs.25,000/- in case of simple injury suffered by anyone. Directions were also issued to take appropriate steps in collecting data as to if any such infringements exist and creating road map or action plan to remove such infringements, in the shortest possible time so that such tragedy is not repeated.