Friday, March 16, 2012

Southern Railways drive to check drunken passengers- Kerala High Court issues notice to Railways

Recently the Divisional Security Commissioner of Railway Protection Force, Thiruvananthapuram has reported that Southern Railways has launched a drive in Kerala to check drunken passengers in the railway premises and in the trains by using Breath Analysers. As part of the said drive, any persons found to have consumed liqour is being booked invoking section 145 (a) of the Railways Act, 1989.

As per section 145 (a) of the Act, any person found "in a state of intoxication" in any part of railway or railway carriage is said to have committed the offence. Therefore it is very clear that mere consumption of alcohol by a person will not attract the above provision. Only when a person is found to be " in a state of intoxication" the offence is attracted.

Neither the definition of the expression "State of Intoxication" nor the machinery or the mechanism to ascertain the "state of intoxication" referred to in section 145 (a) is provided under the Act or the Rules made there under. The said provision enables the 'Railway servant' or the 'officer authorised' to take action according to their discretion that too in an illegal and arbitrary manner. Without there being sufficient procedural safeguards, no doubt, the said provision will work arbitrarily.
The present drive of the RPF in Kerala to check drunken passenger by using Breath Analyser is the best example of such an arbitrary exercise. The Breath Analyser is not a method prescribed under the Act or Rules to ascertain " the state of Intoxication". Quantity consumed is not the test to ascertain the same. This has resulted in a situation whereby any person found to have consumed liqour/smells of alcohol is booked for the alleged commission of offence under section 145 (a), which is a cognizable offence as per section 179 of the Act. This is not what is contemplated under the above provision. The consumption of liquor from permitted place is legal. On account of the above illegal and arbitrary action of the RPF, a person without fear or apprehension of getting booked under section 145 (a) for having consumed liqour, is not able to either enter the railway premises or in the trains. The free movement of a person according to his choice is affected and there is every likelihood of loosing the dignity and reputation in front of the other passengers or public.

That being the position, aggrieved by the aforesaid action, Mr. K.N Shastry from Cochin has filed a writ petition before the High Court of Kerala challenging the validity of section 145 (a) and its enforcement by the railway authorities under the Act as arbitrary, unguided, unreasonable, discriminatory and violative of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The Honourable Court has admitted the writ petition and issued notice to the respondents including the Railways.

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