Supreme Court no­tice to govt on un­manned rail­way cross­ings

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The Supreme Court has de­scribed as ‘se­ri­ous’ the fact that 40 per cent of rail­way-level cross­ings across the coun­try are un­manned and ac­count for 73 per cent of fa­tal­i­ties ev­ery year, and is­sued no­tice to the Cen­tre in re­sponse to a PIL de­mand­ing the de­ploy­ment of guards or gates at all 30,348 cross­ings.

“De­spite so many ca­su­al­ties, the Rail­ways have not taken any ac­tion to en­sure safety and se­cu­rity of the pub­lic. Th­ese un­manned cross­ings are not only dan­ger­ous for those cross­ing rail­way tracks but also for pas­sen­gers in case the train de­rails,” said the PIL filed by Ajay Gau­tam, a priest. We would like to ex­am­ine the whole is­sue as it in­volves the safety of the pub­lic and train pas­sen­gers. We are ap­point­ing se­nior lawyer Di­nesh Dwivedi to as­sist us in the mat­ter as an am­i­cus cu­riae,” said the court, while is­su­ing no­tice to the Rail­ways on Fri­day.

“The is­sue raised in the PIL is se­ri­ous. We are is­su­ing no­tice to the Cen­tre and Rail­ways. We would like to ex­am­ine the whole is­sue as it in­volves the safety of In­dian cit­i­zens and train pas­sen­gers. Rail­ways is a Gov­ern­ment en­tity and has a so­cio-oblig­a­tory role in giv­ing ba­sic pro­tec­tion to the cit­i­zens and so­ci­ety and is an­swer­able. When the ex­ist­ing age-old rail­way sys­tem it­self is not able to take care of ac­ci­dents due to un­manned level cross­ings, how can the Gov­ern­ment think of run­ning bul­let and high-speed trains in a coun­try like In­dia where more than 30,348 level cross­ings are un­manned? If level cross­ings on the pre­vail­ing ground-based rail-track sys­tem in the coun­try do not give pro­tec­tion to gen­eral pub­lic, then Gov­ern­ment should go and ex­am­ine how Ja­pan and China have built el­e­vated high-speed rail-track sys­tems in those coun­tries and re­duced ca­su­al­ties. We are ap­point­ing se­nior lawyer Di­nesh Dwivedi to as­sist us in the mat­ter as an am­i­cus cu­riae,” said the court while is­su­ing no­tice to the Rail­ways.

The PIL said 11,563 of 30,348 cross­ings – or roughly 40 per cent – were un­manned. Quot­ing the Rail­ways’ fig­ures, Gau­tam con­tended that mishaps at cross­ings caused the high­est num­ber of ca­su­al­ties among rail­way ac­ci­dents. He said they ac­counted for 60 per cent of the ac­ci­dents and 73 per cent of fa­tal­i­ties. The PIL said ac­ci­dents at un­manned cross­ings claimed 350 to 400 lives ev­ery year.

Con­sumer court or­ders BSNL to com­pen­sate con­sumer

The lo­cal con­sumer court in Nashik has or­dered Bharat San­char Nigam Limited (BSNL) to com­pen­sate a con­sumer for lack of proper cov­er­age to his cell­phone ser­vices, men­tal ha­rass­ment and the ex­penses in­curred for reg­is­ter­ing a case with the court. “The se­ries of com­plaints clearly point out that BSNL was guilty of de­fi­ciency in ser­vices and hence the con­sumer should be given Rs 5,000 as part of com­pen­sa­tion, Rs 5,000 as part of men­tal ha­rass­ment and Rs 3,000 in­curred for reg­is­ter­ing com­pli­ant with the court,” the court said in its or­der.

Sandeepkum­ar Brah­mecha, in his com­plaint regis­tered with the con­sumer court in Oc­to­ber 2013, had claimed that he had taken BSNL’s mo­bile ser­vice and was us­ing the phone for ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion as well as data trans­fer.

“There were a num­ber of oc­ca­sions when calls made were ei­ther can­celled or went on hold, or could not be com­pleted and all such ac­tiv­i­ties re­sult­ing not only in men­tal ha­rass­ment but also loss in business,” the com­plainant said. He claimed that he had lost business to the tune of Rs 1.71 lakh and sought com­pen­sa­tion. BSNL con­tended that the bills is­sued and the con­sumer pay­ing it with­out any is­sues meant that the con­nec­tion was clear. “The con­sumer is not a de­faulter of the company and never has he raised is­sue about the loss of con­nec­tion. Since there was no loss of con­nec­tion, the case of loss in business does not arise. Also that the con­sumer en­joyed the con­nec­tion and the ser­vice all the time even till date and if there was any is­sue about loss of con­nec­tiv­ity he would have stopped the con­nec­tion long back,” BSNL claimed. The court, how­ever, cat­e­gor­i­cally pointed out that the com­plainant had never said any­thing about the to­tal loss of con­nec­tiv­ity but about the lack of qual­ity ser­vice that would al­low him to work.

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