The National Consumer Redressal Commission (NCRC) backed Maharashtra State commission’s order of granting Rs 68 lakh, apart from bearing all medical expenses, to a man who was disabled in an accident at Mumbai’s Churchgate station on 13th May 2010.
The 34-year victim, Vinod Sharma, suffered grievous brain injury and multiple skull fractures after a heavy wooden plank (10ft. long and 2ft. wide) fell on his head when he was travelling for work between Virar and Churchgate.
The accident occurred at Platform 3 in Churchgate, which was undergoing renovation at the time, but no warnings or signboards were used to fence the spot. The plank fell on him from a height of more than 50 feet causing him to become unconscious immediately.
Sharma was admitted to Mumbai Hospital for four months for skull surgery. Brain damage caused severe language impairment, and he was paralysed in the upper and lower limbs. He also requires a special diet costing Rs 6,000 a month.
Treatment would be life-long, his counsel argued. In 2012, Sharma moved to the State Commission and petitioned for a compensation of Rs ₹80 lakh. Post his appeal, the Western Railways (WR) stopped making payments for medical expenses.
However, both state and national commissions held Sharma’s right to compensation for the permanent damages caused. “The State Commission rightly concluded that as a result of the injury suffered during the accident, the complainant was not in a position to do any work and his functional disability was 100%,” said the national commission.
WR appealed during the hearing that the case did not fall under the jurisdiction of the consumer fora as the accident occurred at the railway’s premises and the complainant cannot be regarded as a consumer under the law because his signature was not present in his railway identity card and the season ticket. It also argued that a sum of ₹25 lakh has already been spent on the complainant’s medical expenses.
The commission overturned this claim. “This contention of WR is without force, as the Railways have nowhere denied that these are not documents issued by them. The Railways have not alleged anywhere that the complainant made any forged identity card or season ticket. It is held, therefore, that the complainant cannot be denied the privileges of a consumer…” said the commission.
Citing adjudications made by the Supreme Court, the National Consumer Redressal Commission held that a commuter with a valid ticket or pass is a consumer and comes under the purview of the socio-beneficial legislation.
The Railways has been directed to pay Rs 68 lakh to Vinod Sharma, inclusive of Rs 5 lakh for pain, suffering, mental agony and loss of amenities and Rs 15,000 as the cost of litigation.