The Supreme Court delivered a significant decision in the case of Kamaukayi and Ors v. Union of India and Ors, concluding that whenever a “untoward incident” takes place during the course of routine railway operations, the railway administration will be required to compensate the passenger, regardless of any wrongdoing, negligence, or default on their part. The court also found that the injured or deceased person’s lack of a ticket does not disprove his claim to have been a genuine passenger.
The appeals in this case were filed by the family of a man who passed away after falling from a moving train due to a large crowd and suffering terrible injuries, including decapitation and right-hand amputation. The man had already passed away. The Madras High Court rejected the family’s appeal and agreed with the Railway Claim Tribunal’s decision that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger. The question remains: how does Indian Railways determine whether the injured or deceased passenger was bona fide or not, and what is the compensation mechanism of Indian Railways in cases where a passenger dies while using the service of Indian Railways?

Who are Bona fide Passengers?

In simple terms Bona fide passengers are those from whom a ticket can be found, Section 2(29) of Railways Act, 1989 defines a Passenger as a person traveling with a valid pass or ticket however, it is not that easy to determine whether deceased was a bona-fide passenger or not, while claiming for compensation two necessary ingredients which need to be proved on strict parameters: first the deceased being a ‘bona-fide passenger’ and second being the occurrence of an ‘untoward incident’. In the case of Kamaukayi and Ors v. Union of India and Ors, the officials did not find a ticket from possession of the deceased, and also the appellants were not able to establish in Tribunal and High Court that the death of passenger was because of an ‘untoward incident’.

To determine whether a passenger is Bona fide or not, there are some judgments of Courts, it was ruled by the court in the case of Union of India v. Rina Devi that “simply having a body on the railway premises would not be conclusive to hold that injured or deceased was a bona fide passenger for which claim for compensation could be maintained.” In this case the sudden rush of passengers within the compartment caused the passenger to accidentally fall from the moving train as it approached Khusrupur Railway Station’s east cabin, where he instantly died.

The allegation that he was a bona-fide passenger would not be refuted by the simple fact that there was no ticket. The initial burden would be on the claimant, which might be fulfilled by submitting an affidavit of the pertinent facts. After that, the burden would transfer to the Railways, and the matter could be adjudicated based on the facts presented or the accompanying circumstances. Depending on the facts discovered, this would need to be handled on a case to case basis.

In the case of Raj Kumar v. Union of India Delhi High Court relied on Rina Devi Case. In this particular case, an appeal was filed in response to the Tribunal’s order. The Delhi High Court ruled that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger and rejected the family members’ request for compensation. As per the ruling in the Rina Devi case, the claimant would first bear the burden, which may be satisfied by submitting an affidavit outlining the pertinent facts. However, in this instance, neither the claim application nor an affidavit by the appellants contained a statement of these circumstances. The court concluded that the appellants had not met their obligation. As a result, the court rejected the appeal and upheld the tribunal’s decision.

In this case, the deceased boarded the train after purchasing a ticket at the Allahabad Railway Station for a trip to New Delhi. The deceased, who was standing close to the compartment gate when the train was about to arrive at the New Delhi Railway Station, fell off the train as a result of a quick and powerful jerk. The deceased was taken to a hospital, where he passed away. In a claim petition for compensation submitted by the appellants (the deceased’s parents), it was determined that the deceased was not a bonafide passenger because he did not have the ticket on him. As a result, the claim petition was dismissed.

Also in the case of in Smt. Kaushalaya Devi v. Union of India, It was held that where the dead body of the deceased was found in the precincts of the Railway Station, the presumption is that the deceased was a bona fide passenger and had purchased a ticket. The onus to prove that the deceased was a ticket less traveller or ticket less wanderer lies on the shoulder of the Railway Administration. However, the respondent failed to prove the same. In this case Passenger Ram Singar Singh fell from train at the Railway Station and died, after that a claim case before the Railway Claims Tribunal was filed, while on behalf of the claimants one witness deposed and boldly stated that he saw the deceased purchasing ticket, and his evidence could not be shaken in cross-examination. Though Railway Administration contended that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger, no evidence to prove the same was tendered before the Tribunal by the Railway Administration.

Was it an “untoward incident” ?

Compensation claims are dependent on whether the event that caused the passenger’s injuries or death was an “untoward incident.” The responsibility of the Railway Administration for fatalities and injuries to passengers as a result of accident has been given in Chapter XIII of the Railways Act, 1989. “Untoward incident” is defined in Section 123 (c). According to clause (2), an unfortunate incidence would be any person accidentally falling from a train that was carrying passengers. According to Section 124A, the Railway Administration is responsible for making compensation in the event of an untoward incident. Whether or not there has been any wrongdoing, negligence, or default on the part of the Railway Administration as such, a passenger who suffered injury or death would be entitled to compensation when an untoward incident occurs within the course of the operation of the railway. Regardless of any other laws, the railroad is obligated to provide the stipulated compensation for such an untoward incident, and the claim can be continued to recover damages.

In the Kamaukayi case, it was in contention that whether the event that caused the death was an untoward incident or not, since appellant was not able to prove that cause of death was due to untoward incident, they lost their case in Railway Tribunal and Madras High Court. It was held by Madras High Court that if deceased had fallen from running train, his body would not have been found outside the railway track. The claim that the deceased died as a result of an untoward incident was refuted, and Southern Railways was held not responsible for providing any compensation. However, the Supreme Court determined that it was an untoward incident based on the results of the investigation and the Station master’s statement.


When a passenger who is using the service of Indian Railways dies or suffers injury, the deceased’s family members have the right to claim compensation if the event that led to the passenger’s death or injury was an untoward incident under Section 124A of the Railways Act, 1989. However, it is not easy to prove in the tribunal whether the passenger who died or suffered injury was due to an untoward incident; it depends on the investigation, post-mortem, statement of officials, and various other factors. Now that the word “passenger” means a bona fide passenger (a person with a valid ticket), the court has, in its various judgments, set out rules for determining the passenger as bona fide. In the Rena Devi case, the court held that the burden of proof will first be on the claimant, and after that, it will pass on to the railway administration. If they fail in opposing the claimant’s contention, the court will consider the deceased passenger a bona fide passenger and will provide the claimant with compensation.

Authored by Aryan Raj.