Station Superintendent & Anr. v Surender Bhola (2023)
In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has held that the theft of personal belongings from a passenger while traveling on a train does not constitute a “deficiency of service” on the part of the Railways. The decision came as the Court set aside orders passed by consumer forums that directed the Railways to reimburse a passenger for the stolen amount of cash.
The bench, consisting of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah, expressed its inability to comprehend how the theft could be considered a deficiency in service by the Railways. The Court stated that if a passenger fails to protect their own belongings, the Railways cannot be held responsible.
The case revolved around Mr. Surender Bhola, the respondent/passenger, who was traveling on an Indian Railways train carrying Rs. 1 lakh in cash tied around his waist. Unfortunately, the cash was stolen during the train journey. In response, the passenger filed a claim with the District Consumer Forum, seeking reimbursement from the Railways. The argument put forth was that the theft occurred due to a deficiency in the service provided by the Railways.
The District Consumer Forum granted the claim, directing the Railways to reimburse the stolen amount of Rs. 1 lakh to the passenger. The State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) subsequently dismissed the appeals, upholding the decision of the District Consumer Forum.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court bench concluded that the theft of personal belongings does not constitute a deficiency in service on the part of the Railways. The Court reiterated its view that the Railways cannot be held responsible if a passenger fails to safeguard their own belongings.
Consequently, the bench set aside the orders passed by the NCDRC, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, and the District Consumer Forum, allowing the appeal.
This ruling by the Supreme Court clarifies the responsibility of the Railways regarding the theft of personal belongings during train journeys. It emphasizes that passengers must take reasonable precautions to protect their valuables, and in the event of theft, the Railways cannot be held liable for any alleged deficiency in service.
The judgment sets an important precedent, reaffirming the principle that the Railways should not be held accountable for acts beyond their control, such as thefts committed by third parties. It highlights the need for passengers to exercise caution and personal responsibility while traveling and ensures that the Railways’ accountability is limited to matters within their purview.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling emphasizes that the theft of personal belongings from a passenger does not amount to a deficiency in service on the part of the Railways. This decision underscores the importance of passengers taking adequate precautions to safeguard their valuables. It serves as a reminder that individuals bear a certain level of responsibility for their belongings while traveling and cannot hold the Railways accountable for incidents beyond their control.
Read the Order