By the time the train reached Jhansi, the air conditioning completely broke down, making the compartment stuffy. Passengers, including Sharma, started feeling suffocated. Some felt so ill that they started vomiting, but no medical aid was provided. The washroom also ran of out water and the condition of the AC-III tier boogie became worse than a general compartment. A written complaint was then lodged with the train conductor who gave an acknowledged of having received the complaint.
At every station where the train halted, passengers requested the travelling ticket examiner (TTE), coach attendant and other railway staff to rectify the problem. Yet, nothing was done. But an assurance was given that something would be done at Delhi. But again nothing was done and even an alternative coach was not arranged for.
Sharma subsequently filed a complaint before the Jalandhar District Forum alleging about the negligence and deficiency in service.
The Railways contested the case, denying all the allegations and asserted that the AC was functioning properly. They denied that Sharma had lodged a complaint and accused him of filing a false complaint just to extort money. The Railways sought a dismissal of the complaint since there was neither any deficiency in service nor unfair trade practice.
Sharma filed his own affidavit and relied on the prescriptions to prove that his wife and minor child had to be hospitalized for nausea and vomiting. He also relied on the written complaint which he had lodged and was acknowledged by the train conductor to substantiate his case and show how the Railway’s denial was false. The Forum concluded that the Railways were suppressing the truth and awarded Sharma a lump sum of Rs.15,000 as compensation.
The Railways challenged this order before the Punjab state commission, which dismissed its appeal. The Railways then approached the National Commission. The delay of over 170 days in filing the revision was attributed to procedural delays of sending thefile from one office to another for approval.
The National Commission observed that the explanation for thedelayshowedlackof seriousness and a casual and lackadaisical attitude on the part of the Railways. It relied on the Supreme Court judgement of the Post Master General & Ors v/s Living Media India Limited& Anr. where such an attitude had been deprecated. Accordingly, by itsorder of January 3, 2018, the Bench of Rekha Gupta refusedto accept thedelay and dismissedthe revision petition of the railways. The order for payment of compensation to Sharma was thus confirmed.
Conclusion: Non-working AC is bad enough, but to go to an extent of lying and accusing the consumer is totally unconscionable, especially when the service provider is the government.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt.of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is)