1. Bhagwan Das, station master of a way side station of the E.I. Ry. Co., has been convicted under Section 101(a) and (b) Railways Act of 1890 and sentenced to six months' simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 50. In default of payment of the fine a further period of one month's simple imprisonment is added. The charge against him is that on 16th June 1935 he endangered the safety of certain persons by allowing a goods train to run on the loop line at a wayside station and by failing to satisfy himself that point 2 on the loop line was not properly set and by failing to have the keys of the point and the scotch block in his possession.
2. There is no doubt that Bhagwan Das committed a breach of the rules in allowing the goods train to run over the loop-line. The main line was clear, and in these circumstances according to the rules, the goods train ought to have run through the station on the main line. On the day in question before the goods train was allowed to run on to the loop line point 2 on this line was not properly adjusted, with the result that the train ran into a blind siding and collided with two trucks there. As a result of the collision considerable damage was done and the driver and certain persons on the goods train sustained simple injuries. It cannot be held, however, that in allowing the goods train on to the loop line the station master did anything to endanger the safety of any person. The loop line was clear, and although it was his duty to run the train on the main line through the station, the mere act of switching the train on to the loop line did not of itself endanger the life of any person either on the train or at the station. The switching of the train on to the loop line was not in short the proximate cause of the accident. The accident resulted from point No. 2 not being properly set. This point it appears was set towards the blind siding and not towards the main line. The only question therefore is was the applicant guilty of any act or omission in relation to the setting of point No. 2.
3. According to the rules the station master must be satisfied that the points are correctly set before he allows a train on to the loop line. This of course does not mean that it is the duty of the station master himself to go and examine the points and see for himself that they are correctly set before allowing a train to proceed on to the loop line. He has to trust to pointsman, and the practice is to receive a signal from the pointsman that the points are all correctly set before allowing the train on to 'the loop line.
4. Now according to the rules and regulations point No. 1 should be set first, point No. 2 second and point No. 3 last of all. If the station master receives signal from the pointsman at point No. 3 that the points have been correctly set, then he is entitled to direct the lowering of the signals and to allow the train to proceed on to the loop line. Now it is not in dispute that on the occasion in question point No. 2 was not correctly set. The station master in. the report which he made immediately after the incident and in his evidence during the course of the trial stated that he did receive a signal from point No. 3. He deposed that he saw the white light from point No. 3 which according to the regulations is the signal which the pointsman at that point gives when the points have all been set and locked as directed. He further stated in the report and in his evidence that on emerging on to the station platform shortly before the goods train arrived he did not see a green light burning at point No. 2. He called to the pointsman Gaya Prasad and asked him why the green light was not burning. He then saw the green light at point No. 2. He had also received an 'all right' signal from points Nos. 1 and 3. In these circumstances he considered himself at liberty to lower the signals and allow the goods train to proceed on to the loop line. In the course of his judgment the learned Sessions Judge observes:
The station master did not see a white light at point No. 8 or at point No. 2 and he allowed the signals to be lowered. According to the rules he ought not to have been satisfied i he saw or understood to have seen a green light from the disc indicator at point No. 2. Ho ought to have seen two lights, one green from the disc indicator and one white from the pointsman.
5. Now the station master's own statement is that he did see both these lights before he allowed the train to proceed. There is no evidence to show that the white light was not visible at point No. 3. So far as point No. 2 is concerned there is this in favour of the applicant that the Driver of the goods train in his statement to the police and in the course of the trial alleged that he saw a green light at point No. 2. The fireman on the train in his statement to the police stated that there was a green light at point No. 2. In the course of the trial however he went back upon that statement and stated that he did not see a green light at point No. 2. It appears that the Guard of the train did not see a green light at point No. 2. The evidence of the Fireman cannot be relied upon in view of his statement to the police that he did see a green light at point No. 2. The Guard of the train stated that he did not see a green light. Negative evidence of this sort is not as important as the positive evidence of the Driver of the train, who certainly was on the look out and in a better position than the Guard to observe, that he did see a green light at point No. 2.
6. The evidence does show that the station-master failed to comply with a number of the regulations. For this dereliction of duty he has been punished by the Railway Company who have reduced his salary. So far as the present proceedings are concerned however, before he can be held guilty of an offence under Section 101, Railways Act, it must be proved that he endangered human life by failure to comply with the rules and regulations of the Railway Company. Now it may be that human life was endangered by the goods train being allowed on to the loop line before point No. 2 was correctly set. Some one was undoubtedly guilty of the breach of the regulations. The question in the present case is: was it the station master? The evidence shows in my judgment that the station master took reasonable steps to satisfy himself that all the points were correctly set. He received signals which entitled him to conclude that this was so. If point No. 2 was not correctly set then the fault was the fault of the person whose duty it was to set the point and signal to the station master that the point had been set. Undoubtedly the failure to set point No. 2 towards the main line was the direct cause of the accident.
7. It was this failure that endangered the safety of the persons upon the train. If the station-master is entitled to rely upon the signals of his pointsman then quite clearly he has been guilty of no offence under Section 101, Railways Act, as the pointsman had signalled the point set. There is no doubt in my opinion that it was never intended that the station master should himself visit the points to see if they are correctly set before allowing the signal on to the loop line to be lowered. In the discharge of his duty as station master he must rely upon the pointsman under him whose actual duty it is to set the points according to directions. Upon the whole matter I am satisfied that the prosecution have failed to prove that by his act or omission and by his failure to comply with any of the rules and regulations the applicant did anything to endanger the safety of any person and that therefore he is not guilty of an offence under Section 101, Railways Act. In the result the application is allowed and the conviction and sentence are set aside. The fine if paid will be refunded. The applicant's bail bonds are discharged.