New Delhi: Pulling up Indian Railways for taking over two years to process a passenger`s refund request and then "illegally" rejecting it, a consumer forum here has directed it to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to the complainant.
The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum held Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) directly responsible for the delay as the refund request for cancelled ticket was to be forwarded to the railways zone concerned by IRCTC.
"We hold all the opposite parties (chairman of Railway Board, general manager of Northern Railways, chief commercial manager of South East Railways and IRCTC) guilty of deficiency by taking unduly long time in processing the refund claim of complainant and then rejecting it illegally.
"The opposite party (IRCTC) has contributed directly to the delay and harassment and inconvenience to complainant and his family," a bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said and directed the parties to jointly and severally pay Rs 25,000 as compensation to Delhi resident Pulastya Pramachala along with Rs 25,000 as cost of litigation.
The forum asked the chairman of Railway Board to examine the rules and regulations governing time limit for claiming refund and processing it "so that consumers are not made to litigate for refund".
The forum also observed the Railways acted "penny wise and pound foolish" by spending public money to defend such cases in courts and said the Board should direct Indian Railways "to make the refund in court (forum) on first hearing itself rather than contesting such cases".
The forum`s order came on the complaint by Pulastya who had alleged that he had filed the refund request in April 2010, but it was not processed for over two years and then was rejected in May last year on the ground that he had filed the claim late.
IRCTC had contended in its defence that refund claim was rejected as it was not filed within 12 hours of cancellation of ticket as per the rules and regulations governing ticket cancellation.
The forum rejected the contention, saying that as per the Railway Act, 1989, Railways "in no case can refuse refund of a cancelled ticket".
"It (Railways) cannot make rules or regulations or time limits for presenting refunds, in a manner which would lead to refusal of refund on grounds of late presentation. It can only prescribe the cancellation charges etc.," the bench said.
The forum also noted that the Railways has set a time limit of a few hours for passengers to file the claim, but it has laid no such limit for itself.
"The complainant in this case sent a number of emails, requests and contacted service centres, wasting his time, money and effort, with all anxiety and distress for absolutely unreasonable delay of two years in getting a reply that the request has been rejected.
"Such an unreasonable delay is total imperfection in rendering services," the forum noted and also directed Indian Railways to refund the ticket fare after deducting the applicable cancellation charges.