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Railways Act, 1989

124. Extent of liability. 

When in the course of working a railway, an accident occurs, being either a collision between trains of which one is a train carrying passengers or the derailment of or other accident to a train or any part of a train carrying passengers, then whether or not there has been any wrongful act, neglect or default on the part of the railway administration such as would entitle a passenger who has been injured or has suffered a loss to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the railway administration shall, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, be liable to pay compensation to such extent as may be prescribed and to that extent only for loss occasioned by the death of passenger dying as a result of such accident, and for personal injury and loss, destruction, damage or deterioration of goods owned by the passenger and accompanying him in his compartment or on the train, sustained as a result of such accident.

Explanation.- For the, purposes of this section "passenger" includes a railway servant on duty.

Comment: Mr. Goswami, learned counsel appearing for the railway administration does not dispute that under the new Act, there is statutory liability on the railways but submits that the 1989 Act does not have any retrospective operation. We do not wish to go into that question in this case and leave that issue open. We are resting our case on the breach of common law duty of reasonable care, which lies upon all carriers including the railways. The standard of care is high and strict. It is not a case where the omission on the part of the railway officials can be said to be wholly unforeseen or beyond their control. Here there has been a complete dereliction of duty which resulted in a precious life been taken away, rendering the guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution illusory. Had the deceased not pulled the alarm chain with a view to stop the train, the position might have been different. Liability in this case is fault based. Such a liability is not inconsistent with the scheme of the Railways Act of 1890 either (Refer Section 80 with advantage). P. A. Narayanan v. Union of India,  AIR 1998 SUPREME COURT 1659

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