Tatkal Rail Ticket ID Mess: Eastern Railway Asked To Pay Rs25,000 Compensation, Refund Ticket Cost
Moneylife Digital Team 14 May 2024
Pointing out the ambiguity in circulars issued by Indian Railways, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed Eastern Railway to refund the amount of the ticket along with compensation of Rs25,000 for deficiency in service as well as mental pain and agony suffered by the passenger. In this case, over 12 years ago, the passenger, who had booked a Tatkal ticket, was treated as ticketless and allegedly manhandled by the travelling ticket examiner (TTE) and other railway staff. 
 
In an order last month, the NCDRC bench of Dr Inder Jit Singh (presiding member) says, "We are of the considered view that due to some ambiguity in para vii of circular no69 of 2011 about the stage and manner of providing the number of proof of identity of remaining passengers in case of partial cancellation, it may be unfair to treat the complainant in the present situation as a ticketless traveller. In such a situation, the benefit of the doubt must go in favour of the complainant or passenger."
 
The bench also set aside Rs15 lakh compensation, out of which Rs5 lakh was to be deposited to the Consumer Welfare Fund as ordered by the Muchipara, Burdwan district consumer disputes redressal forum. It says, "Keeping in view the entirety of the facts and circumstances of the case and in the absence of sufficient evidence of willful acts of manhandling on the part of the TTE and other Railway staff, we are of the considered view that quantum of compensation awarded by the district forum is excessive, hence the order of the district forum require modification in this regard."
 
Burdwan, West Bengal-based Ashis Kumar Paul has filed the complaint. He alleged physical assault by the railway personnel despite possessing a valid railway ticket while travelling to New Delhi on 24 February 2012. He claims that he was forcibly removed from the train by railway protection force (RPF) personnel, tied to a tree with a rope at Mughalsarai station, detained overnight in a lock-up, and released on bail the following day. 
 
In contrast, the railway authorities asserted that under the Tatkal scheme, passengers must produce the original proof of identity indicated on the ticket during the journey. Failure to do so results in all passengers listed on the ticket being treated as travelling without a ticket and charged accordingly. 
 
"Since the passenger named Ms M Duta (wife of Mr Paul), whose identity proof was mentioned on the ticket, did not travel, the TTE asked Mr Paul to explain the unauthorised pulling of the alarm chain near Rafigunj station. When he failed to provide a valid reason, he was handed over to RPF personnel and subsequently prosecuted according to the law,” Eastern Railways says. 
 
Subsequently, Mr Paul filed a complaint in the district forum. In an order on 9 January 2013, the district forum directed Eastern Railway to refund Rs3,400, the ticket cost with interest at 9%pa (per annum), pay Rs15 lakh as compensation, and deposit Rs5 lakh out of the compensation amount to the Consumer Welfare Fund.
 
Aggrieved by the order, Eastern Railway filed an appeal before the West Bengal state consumer disputes redressal commission. However, on 4 February 2015, the state commission dismissed the complaint. 
 
Mr Paul then approached NCDRC. He contended that the state commission overlooked the potential harassment faced by genuine passengers due to the enforcement of circular no59/2011 dated 11 November 2011. "The subsequent circular no61/2011, issued just seven days after the previous one, aimed to address this issue and mitigate the risk of harassment faced by passengers due to dishonest TTEs. It is essential for the railway authority to maintain its reputation by addressing these issues promptly and effectively."
 
"The state commission failed to acknowledge that the amendment to the previous circular was implemented in the interest of genuine passengers. The amendment clearly emphasised the need for ticket-checking staff to be familiar with the revised features of the Tatkal scheme to prevent inconvenience to the general public. However, the state commission overlooked the fact that the ticket-checking staff, lacking awareness of the amendment, caused unnecessary inconvenience to genuine passengers. This resulted in the complainant being unable to undertake their journey on 24 February 2012 and being subjected to harassment by the TTEs," the counsel for Mr Paul contended. 
 
The counsel for Eastern Railway contended that Mr Paul booked two tickets on the Tatkal scheme for himself and his wife but provided only his wife's identity details. "As per railway rules, at least one passenger travelling on the ticket must show the original identity to TTE. Failure to do so results in all passengers being treated as travelling without a valid ticket. When the TTE checked the ticket, Mr Paul produced an invalid identity, leading to a penalty being charged. He refused to pay the penalty, argued with the TTE, and pulled the emergency chain, resulting in the intervention of the train Manager and subsequent involvement of the RPF."
 
After perusing circular no59 of 2011, NCDRC observed that tatkal tickets could be booked for a maximum of four persons and giving identity proof of each passenger is not mandatory. It is sufficient if identity proof of only one passenger is indicated at the time of booking the ticket and at the time of travel, that particular identity proof has to be shown to the TTE. 
 
At the same time, it is open to the passenger booking the ticket to indicate identity proof for all the passengers if they so desire. In fact, the bench says, Mr Paul pleaded that he himself went for the booking of the ticket and requested the booking counter official of Eastern Railway to mention both IDs in the ticket but the booking clerk under rush hour informed him that it was not necessary to do so as the ticket shows names, sex and age of both the passengers. "Although there is no evidence of a conversation between Mr Paul and the booking clerk, we have no reason to disbelieve this contention of Mr Paul."
 
It is further contended that the ticket contains no mention that if the ID card holder passenger does not travel, the remaining passengers mentioned in the ticket cannot make the journey and will be treated as ticketless. Para iv (e) of circular no59 of 2011 states that if the passenger whose identity card number is indicated on the ticket is not travelling, all other passengers booked on that ticket, if found travelling in the train, will be treated as travelling without a ticket and charged accordingly.  
 
"This in our considered view is a very harsh condition in the circular as the situation may arise where some of the passengers are not able to travel after booking a train ticket due to last minute change of programme or some other valid reason but the remaining passengers have to travel. This circular does not mandate that all passengers must indicate their identity proof compulsorily at the time of booking, and partial cancellation of ticket for some passengers is permissible under the scheme. Denying the remaining passengers, who hold validly booked paid tickets, right to travel or to treat him as ticketless and charge him or them again appears to be unfair," NCDRC says. 
 
At the most, the bench says, the TTE should insist that a person who is travelling in such a situation where his identity proof is not mentioned in the ticket and other passengers whose identity proof is mentioned are not travelling should at least produce his own identity to the satisfaction of the TTE. "If that is done, in our considered opinion, such passengers should not be treated as ticketless travellers and charged again. Moreover, such a condition of circular of the Railways needs to be mentioned on the ticket, as passengers are not expected to have access to various circulars issued by the Railway."
 
Further, NCDRC pointed out that the obvious intention of circular no61 of 2011, which was issued just a week after circular no59 of 2011, appears to be to take care of the difficulties being faced by the passengers in such a situation, where the ticket of the passenger whose identity has been indicated gets cancelled and the identity of the remaining passenger who intends to travel is not indicated in the originally booked ticket. 
 
Hence, it says, "In our considered view, the district forum rightly relied upon circular no61 of 2011, notwithstanding some ambiguity in clause vii of this circular as to the stage and manner of providing the number of identity of the remaining passenger in the situation of ticket of the passenger whose identity number has been indicated, getting cancelled."
 
NCDRC says the district forum has given a well-reasoned order and, in its opinion, the state commission went wrong in reversing these findings of the district forum. Further, the district forum, keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, including the hospital's medical report, accepted the version of Mr Paul with respect to the manhandling by the TTE and railway staff.    
 
"Although there is not sufficient evidence on record to prove such an incident of manhandling and harassment of Mr Paul, as alleged, circumstances do indicate that such situation might have possibly arisen on account of arguments between the TTE and Mr Paul on account of TTE classifying the complainant as a ticketless traveller and asking for being charged again in accordance with circular no 59 of 2011," the bench says.
 
While upholding the order of the district forum with modification with regard to the quantum of compensation and certain other reliefs, NCDRC directed Eastern Railway to refund the ticket cost and pay a compensation of Rs25,000 with 9%pa interest to Mr Paul. 
 
(Revision Petition No1425 of 2015  Date: 30 April 2024)
Comments
pmbhate
1 month ago
12 years and most likely no punishment/reprimand to TTE.
shahbazkhan4185
1 month ago
Itna jyada compensation USA ne kbhi nhi diya
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