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Need for change of the Railway Act 1890 and Changes brought in the RA 1989

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The old Act had to be changed due to many reasons including

  • The constitution of new railway zones, appointment of GMs as heads of these railway administrations.
  • Power has been given to the central government to fix the rates for the carriage of passengers and goods.
  • Statutory recognition of the railway receipt as a negotiable instrument. - Limiting the monetary liability of railways in respect of payment of compensation for loss, damage etc. of goods.
  • The offenses included in the Act have been rationalized and a few offenses included. Important features of the Railways Act, 1989
  • All the amendments have been consolidated, and the layout and presentation have been rearranged and rationalized in 16 chapters.

Rail land Development Authority : 

  • Chapter II A has been in inserted in 2005 and provides institutional framework for development of of railway land for commercial purposes.
  • Chapter II gives legal status to the Zonal Railways as Railway Administrations, as distinct from central government.

Commission of Railway safety

  • A new section has been added in Chapter III which makes it obligatory on Chief Commission of Railway safety to prepare for an annual report which is to be laid by the Government before the Parliament.

Construction and maintenance of Works:

  • The Railway Administration is empowered to erect, operate , maintain or repair any telegraph and telephone connection in connection with the working of the Railway, and also to erect, operate , maintain or repair any electric traction equipment, power supply and distribution installations in connection with the working of the Railway.[Section 11 f and g]
  • The procedure for payment of compensation for damage caused to the private property in the course of construction or maintenance of the Railways has been simplified. Railways will decide the amount of compensation payable in each case. The party can appeal before the District Judge, if not satisfied with the decision of Railways.
  • Under the previous Act he state government could ask the Railway Administration to defray the cost of executing any works for the use of occupiers of the land even after the expiry of 10 years from the date on which the Railway was opened. Under the new Act , no such provision is available.
  • A new provision has been added under which Central Government has been empowered to issue directions to any person to close, regulate or prohibit any work which is likely to alter or impede the natural course of water flow or cause an increase in volume of such flow, endangering any cutting, embankment or other work on Railway.

Land acquisition for a Special Railway Project

  • In order to enable the Railways to acquire land for Infrastructure projects quickly chapter IV A has been inserted in the year 2008. - Section 30 and 32

Fixation of Rates

  • Chapter VI. Under this chapter, the Central Government is empowered to fix standard rates for the carriage of passangers and goods, classify or reclassify any commodity, and increase or reduce the class rates and other charges.
  • An important addition in this chapter is that the Railway Administration has been empowered to charge a lump sume rate which has been defined as the rate mutually agreed upon between a Railway Administration and a consignor for the carriage of goods and for any service in relation to such carriage. This provision will enable the Railways to enter into long term contracts with big, important customers and fix even higher rates for better quality of service.

Railways Rates Tribunal(Section 44 (ii))

  • RRT has been empowered not only to fix a rate or a charge as it considers reasonable but also direct refund on an amount in excess of rates fixed by the Tribunal.

Carriage of Passangers(Chapter VIII)

  • Section 49 - It is not obligatory on the part of the Railways to paste the entire time-table at each station. It would be sufficient if a copy of the time-table is kept in the office of the Station Master.
  • Section 50 - Under the existing Act, particulars on the ticket are to be set forth in Hindi, English and the regional language. The new provision empowers the Central Government to grant exemption of writing particulars in all the three languages I the context of mechanization or for any other reason.
  • Section 59 – The Railway Administration has been empowered to cause means of communication (alarm chain) being disconnected for certain periods if it is satisfied that the same is being misused.

Carriage of Goods (Chapter IX)

  • A new provision has been added regarding the issue of Railway Receipt. The Railway Receipt shall be the prima facie evidence of weight and number of packages stated therein. However where the weight and number of packages are not not checked by the Railway employee, the burden of providing correct weight or the number of packages shall lie on the consignor.
  • A new section has been added under which the Railway Administration has been authorised to levy penal charge for overloading of goods in a wagon.
  • The Railway Receipt has been made negotiable.
  • A new provision has been added under which, on the request of the consignee, the Railway Administration may allow re-weighment except in special circumstances mentioned in the Act or prescribed under rules.
  • A new section has been added under which it is obligatory on the part of Railway Administration to give open delivery where the consignment arrives in a damaged condition.
  • Under the previous act unclaimed goods must be disposed of by public auction only. Under new Act, for special reasons to be recorded in writing goods can be sold in any any other manner prescribed under the rules.

Responsibility of Railway Administration as carriers in respect of liability to pay compensation in case of loss or damage to booked consignments

  • Chapter XI (i) The concept of “Excepted articles” ahs been done away with.At the same time the monetary liabilty of the Railways for loss of or damage to booked goods of all descriptions has been limited to a rate on the basis of the weight of the consignment. This rate is to be prescribed by the Central Government. If the consignor wants the Railway to accept higher liability he will be required to pay additional freight on the basis of value. [Section 103] (ii)
  • Under the previous Act where in goods which normally has to be carried in covered wagons carried in open wagon at consignor’s request Railways are fully exempted from liablity for any damage. Under the revised procedure the liability is to be equally shared between the consignor and the Railways. [Section 104]

Accidents (Chapter XII )

  • Commisssioner of Railway Safety, who conducts an enquiry into an accident has been given the powers of the civil court in respect of summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons , requiring the recovery and production of documents , receiving evidence on affidavit and requiring production of any public record from any court or office. [Section 114 to 120]

Liability of Railway Administration for Death and Injury to Passenagers due to accidents (Chapter XIII)

  • The word “dependant ” has been redefined so as to include the parents in the case of a minor deceased passenger. [Section 123]
  • Under the previous Act the maximum amount of compensation was fixed at Rs. One lakh. Under the new provision , it has been left to the Central Government to prescribe the amount of compensation. Thus it wont be necessary to amend the Act to increase the maximum liability from time to time. [Section 124]
  • It has been clarified that if a Railway employee on duty travelling on a train is involved in an accident he will be entitled to receive compensation under this special provision. [Section 124]

Regulation of Hours of Work and Period of Rest (ChapterXIV). 

  • The rate of overtime has been increased from one and a half times the ordinary rate of pay to two times the ordinary rate of pay for the excess hours of work. [Section 132(4)]
  • Excemption from provisions of Railway Act: Staff working on Track machine have been rostered to work for a period of 3 weeks at a stretch followed by continuous rest for 1 week. The period of 3 weeks will include journey period from duty point to his headquarters. [RBE 190/2003, dated 3.11.2003]

Penalties and offenses. (Chapter XV).  The following offenses have been added:

  • Preferring a false claim against the Railway for loss of or damage to the goods. [Section 149]
  • Making a false report by a Railway employee while conducting an inquiry into a claim for loss of goods. [Section 178]
  • Negligently crossing unmanned Level Crossing. [Section 161]
  • Punishments have been enhanced for most of the offenses.

Miscellaneous Provisions. Chapter XVI.

  • A Railway Administration has been empowered to provide integrated service for carriage of goods or to provide any other mode of transport.
  • A new clause has been added under which Railway Administration is not liable to pay any tax to any local authority unless the Central Government authorizes it by Notification.
  • The Railway Act, 1989 was further amended by Acts 28 of 1994, 56 & 57 of 2003 to provide for the following:
  1. Section 124 A : When an untoward incident happens whether or not Railway is responsible a passenger who gets injured is entitled for compensation.
  2. Section 2(34). The term Railway servant has been widened to include members of RPF.
  3. Section 179 provides powers to arrest for offenses u/s 150-152
  4. Section 180 A to G : To provide more powers to nominated officers to provide punishment for certain offenses.


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