At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE V.K. JAIN
By, PRESIDING MEMBER
For the Appellants: Vivek Sharma, Advocate. For the Respondents: Vibhu Anshuman, Aakriti Dawar, Saurva Agrawal, Anshuman Chowdhary, Advocates.
1. In FA No. 97 of 2013 husband of the complainant/appellant and in FA No. 237 and 238 of 2013 wife of complainants/appellants purchased Bharat Darshan package from respondent No. 1 IRCTC by paying a sum of Rs. 6156/- to IRCTC for the said package. Under the package the appellants/complainants were to be taken on a tour namely Bharat Darshan. According to the complainants the package included journey by train, bus and streamers from New Delhi and back.
2. On 15.09.2018 the above-referred persons boarded a boat/ steamer which was to take them from Lal Bazar to Gangasagar. According to the complainants that said steamer was provided/hired by IRCTC. The requisite safety measures such as divers and lifeguards on-board the steamer were not provided nor any medical facility was available on the steamer. When the steamer reached near Kakdwip in West Bengal it suddenly turned, turtle as a result of which nine passengers including the above-referred family members of the complainants died by sinking in the water. No compensation, however, was paid to the complainants. Alleging negligence, carelessness and defect in the service rendered to them by IRCTC the complainants approached concerned State Commission by way of three consumer complaints.
3. The Complaints were resisted by the respondents.
4. The State Commission having dismissed the consumer complaints the appellants/complainants are before this Commission.
5. The question which arises for consideration in these appeals is as to whether the package which the deceased persons had taken from IRCTC included steamer ride or not. The learned counsel for the respondent No. 1 has drawn my attention to note forming part of the terms and conditions of Bharat Darshan train itinerary which the appellants themselves have filed and is available on page 42 of the paper book. The said note to the extent it is relevant reads as under:-
“Only Rail and Road journeys are included in the itinerary, other journey such as by Boat/Ships/Ferry is not included in the itinerary, the passengers undertaking water journey will be solely on their own risk and expenses, IRCTC will not be responsible for any mishap during the water journey.”
It is thus evident that the package/itinerary sold to the deceased persons did not include journey by boat/ship/ferry. If the passengers wanted to undertake journey by boat/ship/ferry they had to make their own arrangement and had to perform the water journey at their own risk. It was also made clear to them that IRCTC will not be responsible for any mishap during the water journey.
6. The learned counsel for the complainants has drawn my attention to the information provided by West Bengal police on 22.11.2011 under Right to Information Act. The said information to the extent relied upon by the learned counsel for the complainants, reads under:-
“2. About 80 passengers were boarded in that trawler at the time of accident.
5. That trawler was got accident due to rough & negligence navigation and over-loading.
7. Nothing were taken by IRCTC as safety/lifeguard for the passengers.
8. The case has been ended in charge sheet vide Kakdwip P.S.C.S. No. 396/10, Dkt. 25.12.2010 U/S, 280/282/304/120B IPC sent to the Court of Ld. ACJM, Kakdwip. The case is now Subjudice.”
7. The information extracted hereinabove does show that the trawler/steamer met with an accident due to negligence on the part of its driver/captain who had not only overloaded the trawler/steamer but was also navigated it in a negligent manner. However since the trawler/streamer in which the passengers were travelling was not provided to them by IRCTC nor was it required to provide trawler/steamer to them, water journey being outside the purview of the package sold to them by IRCTC, the said company cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence committed by the driver/captain of the ship/trawler in which the passengers were travelling. Though it was stated in the information provided by West Bengal police that nothing was done by IRCTC to safeguard the life of the passengers no such obligation, in my opinion, was cast upon IRCTC, the company having not arranged the steamer/trawler in which the passengers were travelling nor it being liable to arrange a trawler/streamer for them.
8. The learned counsel for the complainants/appellants has drawn my attention to a letter dated 19.10.2011 written by IRCTC to the complainants in which it is stated that the passengers were provided group insurance vide insurance policy issued by Oriental Insurance Company Limited and a sum of Rs.100000/- was payable in terms of the said policy to the legal heirs of each deceased. The said letter does not in any manner show or even indicate that that trawler/steamer in which the passengers travelled was arranged/hired by IRCTC.
9. For the reasons stated hereinabove, I have no hesitation in holding that no case of deficiency on the part of respondents in rendering services to the deceased passengers is made out. The order passed by the State Commission, therefore, does not call for any interference by this Commission in exercise of it
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appellate jurisdiction. The appelas are, therefore, dismissed with no orders as to costs. 10. It is, however, made clear that dismissal of the consumer complaints cannot come in the way of the complainants availing such remedy as may be open to them against the entities other than the IRCTC. They shall also be entitled to the amount, if any, payable to them under the group insurance policy issued by Oriental Insurance Company to IRCTC. However, IRCTC will not be under any obligation to pay that amount which the complainants will have to claim directly from the insurer.