Railways Not Liable for Theft During Train Journeys: Supreme Court

New Delhi: In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court stated that theft during a train journey cannot be considered a deficiency in service by the Railways. The court made this observation while overturning a decision by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which had ordered the Railways to compensate a businessman with ₹1 lakh.

The businessman had filed a claim with the District Consumer Forum, stating that he had lost ₹1 lakh in cash that he was carrying in a cloth belt tied around his waist while travelling by train. He sought reimbursement from the Railways for his loss.

The bench, comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, expressed their inability to understand how the theft could be attributed to any deficiency in the Railways’ service. They emphasized that if a passenger fails to protect their belongings, the Railways cannot be held responsible.

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed by the Railways against the NCDRC’s order, which had directed them to compensate the businessman. The incident occurred on April 27, 2005, when the businessman, Surender Bhola, was travelling to New Delhi on the Kashi Vishwanath Express. He claimed that he had intended to use the money for business purposes and discovered the theft upon waking up, with his belt missing and his trousers cut open on the right side. He promptly lodged a First Information Report (FIR) with the Government Railway Police (GRP) in Delhi.

By setting aside the NCDRC’s order, the Supreme Court has clarified that the Railways cannot be held liable for theft during train journeys if passengers fail to safeguard their personal belongings.

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