The Railways have been directed by a consumer forum here to pay Rs 60,000 as punitive damages to a retired High Court judge and his family for the "hardship" faced by them due to shifting of their seats to another coach without informing them.
The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said that the facts show the Railways attempted to accommodate some other persons in place of the reserved seats for the complainants, resulting in "avoidable hardship, inconvenience, humiliation and harassment to the judge".
The forum also noted in its order that the Railways "resorted to falsehood" to defend their conduct instead of straightaway expressing regret.
"Facts clearly show an attempt inside the Railways to accommodate some other persons in place of reserved seats for complainants (the judge and his family) for whatever reasons, resulting in avoidable hardship, inconvenience, humiliation and harassment to a Judge, who is not used to such hiccups and inconvenience in journeys during his career.
"We hold opposite party (Railways) guilty of deficiency and award punitive damages for resorting to falsehood to defend rather than straight away expressing regrets," a bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said.
The order came on the complaint of Justice Dilip Raosaheb Deshmukh, a former Chhattisgarh High Court judge as well as Chairman of Company Law Board, who underwent the hardship while travelling from Datia, Madhya Pradesh to Bhopal by train with his wife and daughter.
The coach in which his and his family's seats were reserved was closed from inside when they tried to board the train and on enquiring with the ticket checker it was found that their seats had been shifted to another coach, the judge had said in his complaint.
The Railways in their reply contended that the seats were shifted as the same was booked under VIP quota and as per a 2005 circular if a male VIP is accompanied by women, their seats are clubbed together.
The seats were, therefore, changed as the initially booked seats of the judge and his family were not close together, the Railways had submitted before the forum which rejected the contention.