Chairman Railway Board v Chandrima Das Case Summary 2000

Chairman Railway Board v Chandrima Das Case Summary 2000

Chairman Railway Board v Chandrima Das Case deals with a situation in which the scope of giving compensation is broadened in the cases of public wrong.

Facts of Chairman Railway Board v Chandrima Das Case:

  • Mrs. Chandrima Das(respondent herein), a practicing advocate of the Calcutta High Court, filed a petition under Article 226 of Constitution against the Chairman of Railway Board(appellant herein), claiming compensation for the victim (Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon), a Bangladeshi National who was gang-raped by many including employees of the Railways in a room at Yatri Niwas at Howrah Station.
  • The HC awarded a sum of Rs. 10 lakhs as compensation for Smt. Khatoon. The HC was of the opinion that the rape was committed at the building belonging to the Railways and was perpetrated by the railway employees and thus the Railway board is vicariously liable.
  • This appeal is against the HC judgement in favor of Chandrima Das.

Contentions & Issues:

  • Is it right to contend that for claiming damages for the offence perpetrated on Smt. Khatoon, the remedy lay in the domain of private law and not under public law and, therefore, no compensation could have been legally awarded under Article 226?
  • Is it correct to say that Advocate Chandrima Das could not have legally instituted these proceedings as she had no locus standi and was, in no way, connected to the victim?
  • Is it correct to say that since Smt. Khatoon was a Bangladeshi national and she can’t complain of the violation of Fundamental Rights as FRs are available only to citizens?
  • Is it right to contend that the Central Government can’t be held vicariously liable for the offence of rape committed by the employees of the Railways?

Ratio & Decision:

  • The HC has jurisdiction not only to grant relief for the enforcement of fundamental rights but also for ‘any purpose’ which would include the enforcement of public duties by public bodies.
  • This is done to prevent the State or the public bodies from acting in an arbitrary manner. SC, in a number of cases, has awarded compensation for the personal injuries caused by the officers of the government, like in Rudal Shah vs State of Bihar. Therefore, compensation can be legally awarded in this case under public law, i.e. Article 226.
  • The reliefs in the petition also contained to eradicate anti-social and criminal activities at Howrah Railway Station and since the nature of petition is in public interest, therefore, there is a locus standi to Mrs. Chandrima Das.
  • Fundamental Rights such as Article 14 and 21 are available to ‘persons’ and ‘Rape amounts to the violation of FR guaranteed to a woman under Article 21’, therefore, she can complain of a violation of FR even being a Bangladeshi national.
  •  The Court said that the theory of absolute sovereign immunity is no longer in any welfare State. The Railways are a commercial body of Union of India which is not merely sovereign body and can be held vicariously liable for the damage caused by the employees otherwise there will be responsibility for the government bodies and will behave in arbitrarily.


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