Why SC refused to order against Railways for theft in the train?

Why SC refused to order against Railways for theft in the train?

Understand the law

Supreme court held  in a case before it against Railways –“We fail to understand as to how the theft could be said to be in any way a deficiency in service by Railway .If passenger is not able to protect his own belongings, Railways cannot be held responsible”

Case Title Station Superintendent &Others V/S Surrender Bhola, Civil Appel No 7116 of 2017 decided on 15.6.2023

Does it mean that Railways are out from their responsibility in all theft cases following precedent of this case and this order and theory shall be applicable in all future cases?

Dr Prem Lata

Supreme Court on 15.6.2023 was convinced with the arguments extended by railways that they are not responsible for the theft of Rs one lac of one Surender Bhola, the consumer before consumer commissions. What he stated in complaint was that he was carrying this cash in a belt tied around his waist and it got stolen while he was travelling in the train. The District consumer forum had ordered in favour of complainant awarding one lakh to consumer and the order was upheld by state and national commission.

None appeared before Supreme Court for six years from complainant side .Supreme court held-, Railways cannot be held responsible

Law on the point

Every case has different facts and circumstances and any order depends on the facts and applicable law

Earlier orders of the same Supreme Court are not identical in all cases, hence it should not be considered precedent for all cases. As per the earlier judgments related to deficiency by Railway law laid down so far is -

Deficiency in services –steps

·         Facts must be established –theft, defective meal, bad condition of toilets or beds etc. or any other services

·         Efforts by consumer to bring to notice.

·         Prove negligence on the part of railway

·         Quantum and consequences of loss ,damage and compensation to be proved with cogent evidence

In the above case neither the fact of theft could be established, nor was railway proved negligence in any manner.


Earlier decided cases:


1.      Case title -Union of India and Ors. Vs Sanjiv Dilsukhrai Dave and Anr. on 23 October, 2002,(NC )


2.      Deputy Chief Commercial Manager, Eastern Railways and Anr. v. Dr. K.K. Sharma and Ors., [200 (III) CPJ page 1 (NC)].


In both the above cases Railways referred to their Rules



·         Consumer courts have no jurisdiction to deal with Railways issues Railway claim Tribunal ,a State subject .Article 12 Directive principals of state policy

·         Section 13 deals with any fault on the part of railway administration. Section 13 read with Section 15 says –no other court shall deal with the case related to Section 13, they have their own system of compensation. Most of the cases of freight luggage, animals and booked luggage etc.

·         The passenger is to take care of his own luggage and articles in accordance with Rule 506.2 of Indian Railway Conference Association (IRCA) No. 24, No. 216,

·          The passenger is supposed to declare before the starting station and get any valuable articles insured by paying the necessary charges for the railway administration taking extra precautions as  stated that under Rule 1301(I)(IV) of IPCA No. 24,




·         Sections 13 and 15 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 did not take away the jurisdiction of the consumer commissions to decide the question of deficiency of service.

·         It provides an additional remedy to a consumer. These sections bar civil court but not consumer commissions ".

·         Circular dated 11.9.1998, Govt. of India, Ministry of Railway published some of the important duties.

Duties of "TTE for Sleeper Coaches

a)      He shall check the tickets of the passengers in the coach, guide them to their berth/seats and prevent unauthorised persons from the coach. He shall in particular ensure that persons holding platform tickets, who came to see off or receive passengers do not enter the coach.

b)      He shall check the tickets of the passengers in the coach, when the train is on the move and open them up for passengers as and when required.

c)      He shall ensure that the end doors of vestibule trains are kept locked between 22.00 and 6.00 hrs. to prevent outsiders entering the coach.

d)     He shall remain vigilant particularly during night time and ensure that intruders, beggars, hawkers and unauthorised persons do not enter the coach".


3.      Sumatidevi M. Dhanwatay Respondent: Union of India And Ors.

 Date Of Judgment: 06/04/2004(SC)

                                    Factual story: Consumer boarded 1st Class Air conditioned berth from Nagpur to Bombay by Howrah-Bombay Mail. She was carrying her luggage which included gold, pearl, silver and diamond jewellery and other valuables valued at Rs. 1, 11, 756. While she was travelling, she was assaulted by some unauthorised passengers and her gold, silver, pearl, diamond and other valuables were taken away forcibly. This incident occurred on 4.12.1991. Thousands of persons entered into the compartment, they broke the doors, window bars, glass panels, seating berths and toilets etc. The appellant pulled the alarm chain three times, as a result of which, the train stopped at Igatpuri Station. She, along with other bonafide passengers got down at that station. She approached the Railway Authorities for protection, but, without any assistance. On reaching Bombay, she lodged a complaint with the police about the incident.

On filing complaint, Maharashtra State Commission', allowed the claim of the appellant partly awarding total compensation of Rs. 1, 41,756. The Railway administration, filed an appeal before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission with arguments -

·         When an unruly mob entered into the railway compartment and caused damage on the person and property of the passengers, the Railway administration was helpless.

National commission reversed the order

SC observed  

“Railway administration failed to take precaution and preventive measures. The appellant suffered injury and no protection or support was given to her. The total absence of any steps having taken by the concerned Railway Administration to mobilise adequate police force sufficiently beforehand when the occurrences of such mob-violence by ticketless travellers on stations enroute Nagpur to Bombay were to their prior knowledge ”

From the above judgments two things are clear

There should be proved theft and proved negligence on the part of Railways for holding them liable.


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