The complainant had reported a theft of gold and cash from her luggage while she was travelling from Hyderabad to Bengaluru four years ago.

Passengers lie inside a coach of a special train following the resumption of passenger train services connecting major cities amid the COVID pandemic in May 2020 Image for representation/PTI
news Railways Sunday, August 08, 2021 - 11:23

A district consumer commission in Hyderabad has directed South Central Railway to provide compensation of nearly Rs 17.5 lakh to a passenger who had her gold and cash belongings stolen while travelling from Hyderabad to Bengaluru in August 2017, The Hindu reported. The complainant Sheetal Kulkarni, a resident of Hyderabad, said she was carrying gold and silver jewellery worth nearly Rs 15 lakh, and a cash amount of Rs 3 lakh, on her way to a relative’s engagement ceremony. Although South Central Railway argued that it was not liable for the theft, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission – II, Hyderabad ordered SCR to pay an amount of Rs 14,01,078 for the gold and silver items lost, Rs 50,000 compensation for the mental agony and stress suffered, Rs 5,000 towards legal expenses, and also to refund the Rs 3 lakh cash amount (with 9% annual interest).  

According to Sheetal’s complaint, she and her family members took the Kacheguda–Yesvantpur Express, reaching Bengaluru on August 12, 2017. Upon reaching home, they realised that the jewellery and cash were missing and that the suitcase was tactfully cut from the bottom. They lodged a complaint at the Yeshwantpur Rural Railway Police Station, but with no proper response from the railway police on subsequent follow-up, approached the consumer commission with a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act,1986. The complainant alleged that three persons who entered the coach unauthorised,  while the train was stopped for a while before reaching Bengaluru were likely to have committed the theft, as the family had brought several bags to the door while preparing to get down. 

The complainant contended that as the belongings had been stolen from a reserved compartment of a moving train, the theft was due to negligence of SCR authorities, claiming that SCR was liable as the passenger had paid extra service charges for reservation. Meanwhile, SCR contended that the commission did not have jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. It also noted that the complaint was lodged with the railway police nearly 6 hours after the train reached Bengaluru and that the theft occurred while the bags were in Sheetal’s personal custody. “In the present case, the agreement is that the passenger will travel safely from the Kacheguda to Yeshwantpur but not regarding any agreement for the goods carried by the passengers … The personal luggage is the personal responsibility and we will assist the passenger if any unusual occurrence happens by keeping RPF (Railway Protection Force) and GRP (Government Railway Police) as the security to the train,” SCR said. 

However, the consumer commission observed that the suspects pointed out by the complainant were not properly looked into by the railway authorities and that there was negligence on part of railway authorities in allowing unauthorised persons to enter the coach. It said that SCR should have filed details of employees deputed in the particular coach, passengers travelling in the coach on that day and found the persons standing near the door suspected by the complainant, which it had failed to do. “Neither the Records of the officials who deputed for duty on that day nor statements of the Coach Attendants, TTE and Travelers Chart were filed,” the commission noted. 

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