The Delhi High Court has asked Indian Railways to explore the possibility of having a compulsory pre-litigation mediation for facilitating an early settlement in cases of tortuous claims for compensation against them.
The court said that the Railways ought to adopt a 'litigation policy' to deal with such cases as the delay defeats the purpose of granting compensation when the amount was not given to the victim immediately.
Justice Prathiba M Singh passed the order while dealing with a case in which a man has been running from pillar to post seeking compensation after one his legs was amputated in a train accident over 30 years ago.
The court, which was hearing an appeal by the Railways challenging a Delhi trial court's order granting Rs 6.6 lakh compensation to the man, enhanced the amount to Rs 9 lakh and directed the authorities to pay the remaining amount within eight weeks.
The court noted that the journey of the litigation has shown that Tilak Raj Singh, who was a 22-year-old law student at the time of the accident in October 1987, was entangled in a technical objection of jurisdiction before the civil judge at Meerut and the Railways Claims Tribunal.
"An organisation such as the Railways which is located across the length and breadth of this country ought not to delay cases of compensation in this manner. The whole purpose of granting compensation is defeated if the amounts do not become available to the victim immediately," it said.
"The Railways ought to adopt a 'litigation policy' to deal with cases when tortuous claims for compensation are filed against them. In such cases, compulsory pre-litigation mediation can also be explored to bring about an early settlement.
"Such a step would reduce the costs for the Railways as also reduce the number of cases filed, and finally ensure timely and efficient payment of compensation," it said.
The incident dates back to October 20, 1987 when Singh, who is now working with the Income Tax Department, had boarded a general class compartment of Frontier Mail from Meerut Cantonment to Ludhiana and was standing at the exit door.
When the train reached Muzaffarnagar, some of the bogies did not reach up till the platform and to give way to others, he came down. When the train started moving, he tried to board it and due to a sudden and jerky movement of the train, he along with other passengers fell and he got entangled between the wheels of the train and was dragged for a long distance.
He claimed in the plea that no first aid was given to him at the Muzaffarnagar railway station and he was taken to a hospital in a rickshaw. Due to blood loss and inadequate facilities, he developed an infection and was shifted to Safdarjung hospital.
It said that his leg had to be operated upon thrice at Safdarjung hospital and later, his leg had to be amputated.
He filed a civil suit in 1990 in a Meerut court, which returned the plaint citing lack of jurisdiction after 12 years. Later, he approached a railways claims tribunal in 2005, which in 2008 held that the case is liable to be tried by a civil court.
In October 2008, Singh filed the suit in the Delhi High Court which transferred it to a trial court here in 2016 due to increase in pecuniary jurisdiction of the high court and he was awarded a compensation by the trial court in August 2016.
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