Madhya Pradesh HC issues direction to railways to consider re-prioritisation of berths

Bhopal/Jabalpur: Madhya Pradesh (MP) high court’s (HC) principal bench at Jabalpur on Wednesday directed Indian Railways to consider re-prioritisation of berth allotment by giving the highest priority to pregnant women and people suffering from terminal or life-threatening ailments followed by the dignitaries.

A two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices Sanjay Yadav and Sreedharan, said in its order, “As regards to the prioritisation of berth allotment is concerned, the respondent Indian Railways is requested to consider re-prioritising the berth allotment by giving the highest priority to pregnant women, then to senior citizens and followed by other dignitaries.”

The bench gave the order after it had registered a public interest litigation (PIL) suo motu (on its own motion) to consider certain measures regarding railway journeys in the interest of the public.

The PIL was registered after a HC judge on his official visit to Jabalpur from Gwalior in January got off a train at Katni-Murwara railway station for a cup of tea and suddenly the train started moving without blowing a whistle, and had a tough time in boarding a running train.

The HC had put forth three suggestions to the railways in January. They included the fixing of some light signal/sound on each bogie enabling the passengers’ outside the train to be alert prior to the departure of a train in a bid to avoid an accident; updating of the railways’ website/mobile application by displaying the position of the seats/berths to be allotted at the time of making reservation and also increasing of the size/number of doors of the bogies or alternatively increasing stoppage of train duration from two minutes to at least five minutes.

The bench disposed of the petition and made the following observation.

“As far as dignitaries and officials being given a priority in the reservation of seat/berth is concerned, the rationale of officials being given a priority is understandable, as they are required to travel at a short notice for their official duties. However, as regards to the priority of allocation of the lower berth is concerned, it is non-pragmatic.”

It cited that pregnant women are most vulnerable on account of their medical condition and it would cause them great inconvenience in occupying the middle or upper berth.

“The senior citizens, who on an account of their advanced age and attendant medical issues, should be considered as the next priority followed by the dignitaries, who are usually serving state functionaries and are blessed with a better health condition,” it added.

The bench took note of the inconvenience caused to the judge.

“The judge was put to great inconvenience and the accompanying hazard of boarding the running train. The incident made the brother judge put forth three suggestions to the Indian Railways, which, if implemented, would go a long way to ensure passengers’ comfort during the journey,” the order added.

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