The Parliamentary Standing Committee said that the number of duplicate claims over past 10 years is merely 0.5% and till date, no loss to the Government Exchequer has been reported by the Railways in such cases
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways headed by former Minister Dinesh Trivedi has exposed the hollowness in Railways’ contention on higher number of duplicate claims for compensations by accident victims. The Railways citing higher number of duplicate compensation claims in its Statement of Objects and Reasons in the Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014 has been seeking changes in the provisions under Section 109 of the Railways Act.
"...the Committee are greatly dismayed to find that there is an absolute disconnect between the reasons put forward by the Railways to amend Section 109 of the Railways Act, 1989, and the relevant statistics made available by them to the Committee. For instance, the number of cases of duplicate claims is merely 0.5% of the total number of cases of compensation claims filed during the last 10 years. The Committee are also surprised to notice that till date, no loss to the Government Exchequer has been reported by the Railways on account of compensation given in duplicate or fraudulent cases, which starkly contradict the Statement of Objects and Reasons given in the Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014," the Committee in its report submitted in the Parliament said.
The change was proposed by the Railways to prevent filing of large number of duplicate cases of compensation claims in different benches of Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT), and as a safeguard, the provisions regarding Railway administration against which application for compensation for personal injury are to be filed, were made under section 109 of the Railways Act, 1989.
The Railways informed the Committee that total number of cases of compensation claims filed during the last 10 years (2004-05 to 2013-14) for death or injury of passengers in train accidents was 1,920 and in untoward incidents was 63,096. Against this, only 327 cases of duplicate claims have been detected by the RCT Benches.
"The Committee are, therefore, of the firm conviction that there is no need to amend Section 109 of the Railway Act, 1989 as the reasoning given by Railways to amend this Section does not cut ice and is fraught with contradictions," the report says.
The Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014 (Annexure III) was introduced in Lok Sabha on 11 August 2014 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Railways on 16 September 2014 by the Lok Sabha Speaker.
Considering the wide ramifications of the Bill, the Committee decided to invite Memoranda containing suggestions, comments and views from the public and from individuals, NGOs, experts, stakeholders and institutions in particular on various provisions of the Bill.
During a meeting with the Committee, the Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline of Moneylife Foundation opposed the amendments related with redefining 'accidental falling', which aims to put entire blame on the commuter and 'compensation' paid to victims or her family, in Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
The Ministry of Railways, through the Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014, has been seeking to amend Sections 109 and 123 and to insert a new Section 124B in the Railways Act, 1989, which mainly relates to provision of compensation to Railway accident victims.
The existing provision of Section 109 of the Railways Act, 1989 entail that an application before the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) for compensation for the loss of life or personal injury to a passenger, may be instituted against the Railway administration from which the passenger obtained pass or purchased ticket, or the Railway administration from which the passenger station lies or the loss or personal injury occurred.
While making changes vide the Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014, the Railways have proposed to add a proviso to the effect that the Railway administration where the loss of life or personal injury to a passenger occurs shall be made a party, amongst others, if any, before the Railway Claims Tribunal. The reason given by the Railways for the proposed change is to prevent filing of a large number of duplicate cases of compensation claims in different Benches of the Railway Claims Tribunal.