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Emperor Vs. Sheo Baran Singh - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtAllahabad
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1924All438; 81Ind.Cas.705
AppellantEmperor
RespondentSheo Baran Singh
Excerpt:
.....to a light engine whose movements were changed at the last moment, sheo baran singh, the assistant station master in charge, of the levers at the occasion of this accident, either neglected to discover that the points slide was not working, or omitted to examine it before allowing the main through train to enter the danger zone. dillon's contention that it is almost impossible to imagine that a responsible engine driver with experience behind him, and all the responsibilities of his own family as well his own life and safety, together with the fireman and possibly another assistant upon the coal plate, would approach from a long distance on a straight line, a home signal while it was at danger and deliberately pass it without troubling to see whether it was up or down. many people would..........if the points are set to loop. but if the points are set to loop and the signals come down, the station master is atonce warned that something is wrong with the machinery. his course is quite simple. he can supplement the defective machinery by huaman ageny put up all the signals, stop the train and examine the points. a mechajnical, process which has got out of order must be stopped. the station master cannnot see the points from the place at which he works the leves which ditect the work of the pointsman. but there is a check before hiis eyes which is worked by the points as the pointsman executes the order, and so to speak, confirms by a reply the due execu-tion of the order communucated by the lever. to put it in to plain einglish, the moment the person in charge of the levers.....
Judgment:

1. We are of opinion that this appeal must succeed. With great respect to the Magistrate, it is hardly worth wh tie to follow him in Ms discussion of the law. His findings of fact are these: Sheo Baran Singh was negligent from the very beginning. He did not check signals and points on coming to duty. He did not keep a diary (though it may be observed that hardly contributed to the accident) and did mot check the setting of the points. The Magistrate comes to the conclusion that these omissions did not in themselves endanger the safety of tiny person. We should have thought that omitting to set the points, which would prevent a train, after you had given the signal that the line was clear, from running into another train, was an act which endangered the safety of the persons on either of the two trains.

2. We do not propose, because it is well known to both parties in this case, to ventyre upon a discussion of the machanical arrangements of the signals and points. They are devised to prevent accidents, but nothing can present accidents, and machinery, like men, is fallible. But the iimportance of the intetlocking machinery is this. It is so arranged upon a kind of duplicate check and ba-lance system that the signal cannot be lowered for the through main line if the points are set to loop. But if the points are set to loop and the signals come down, the Station Master is atonce warned that something is wrong with the machinery. His course is quite simple. He can supplement the defective machinery by huaman ageny put up all the signals, stop the train and examine the points. A mechajnical, process which has got out of order must be stopped. The Station Master cannnot see the points from the place at Which he works the leves Which ditect the work of the pointsman. But there is a check before hiis eyes which is worked by the points as the pointsman executes the order, and so to speak, confirms by a reply the due execu-tion of the order communucated by the lever. To put it in to plain Einglish, the moment the person in charge of the levers pulls the lever to set the points to loop, he has ready at his hands the means of knowing whether that order has been carried out. If, after he has pulled the points lever to loop, the slide of the points lever shows main, he has conclu-sive evidence either that his order has been disaobeyed or that the machinery is out of working order. Now the evidence on both sides, alter the collision which took place on this occasio n, shows that it was in perfect warking order. The evidence of the witnesses of the state of things before the accident indicates a state of things suggesting that the machinery was out of order. Unless we are to to draw the extravagant inference that it requires a collision at this station to put the machinery into working order, there must be something wrong somewhere. We are satisfied that, possibly owing to a change of plan due to a light engine whose movements were changed at the last moment, Sheo Baran Singh, the Assistant Station Master in charge, of the levers at the occasion of this accident, either neglected to discover that the points slide was not working, or omitted to examine it before allowing the main through train to enter the danger zone. We are inclined to adopt Mr. Dillon's primary contention. In the face of the bewildering contradictions, which this station staff have indulged in in the course of this case with reference to the condition of the signals, (if ignorance of the condition of the signals, which are provided for the safety of the public is an offence under this section, they all ought to be in jail) it is difficult, if not impossible, to come to a satisfactory conclusion as to exactly how the signals stood. There is great force in Mr. Dillon's contention that it is almost impossible to imagine that a responsible engine driver with experience behind him, and all the responsibilities of his own family as well his own life and safety, together with the fireman and possibly another assistant upon the coal plate, would approach from a long distance On a straight line, a home signal while it was at danger and deliberately pass it without troubling to see whether it was up or down. This is extremely difficult to believe, and the difficulty becomes ten times greater if we are asked to believe that, not only the home signal, was at danger in full view of the man on the engine, but that both the outer, the warner and the distant signals were also at danger and had been passed by him. The probability, therefore, is that the signals were down. Whether all were down or some where down, it is almost impossible to discover. The Sub-Inspector, who arrived shortly afterwards, says that the outer and warner signals were down, but the home signal was up. Three of the employees at the station agree with this. The Station Master at Shikohabad, who went on an engine, and who was the first to arrive, suggests that they were all down, because the through key was out of the frame and in the possession of the Station Master. The driver of the stationary train says they were all down, and the other Assistant Station Master says the same thing. The guard of the stationary train on the other hand, who was in close touch with Sheo Baran Singh at the time of the accident, says that the home signal was up. But there is not the slightest doubt that the points at the loop were set for the loop and that they had been set for many minutes before the arrival of the train which caused the collision. The Station Master had ample interval of time to enable him to take stock of the position. To do that is his unchangeable hourly duty. It is the A.B.C. of his office. There is a rule which requires him to check the setting of the loop line, which the Government Advocate has read to us. But it does not require a rule. Many people would do their duty much better if they used their heads more and printed rules less. The duty of a person in control at a railway station is first to give the fundamental orders regulating the arrival of a train, and secondly, but not less, to see that they are accurately carried out, and when this man gave, as he must have given the order to set the points to the loop, it was his duty to see that the slide indicated loop. The longer the interval which elapsed, the greater his neglect. If it indicated main he knew perfectly well that his order had not been carried out, or that the machinery was defective. The Government Advocate has pointed out that the disc, which is provided for the purpose, would also have shown loop. The defence suggested that the train standing in the loop covered the disc. All that he had to do, if his slide was not working correctly, was, as the Government Advocate had pointed out, to walk down the platform and look at the disc or to go across through the train and look at the disc at the other siide, and if he still remained in doubt, to walk down to the pointsman and ascertain for certain. These latter considerations are really superfluous. We are satisfied, as far as it is possible to be in a case of this kind, that the slide was working in connection with the points perfectly. That view is borne out by a statement which does not seem--even if the witnesses Putto Singh and others have embellished their evidence in order to protect themselves to have been a statement invented for the purpose of this case. It is in the evidence of Putto Singh towards the end of his examina-tion-in-chief in the course of a natural story, and it does not appear to have been dragged in into an imaginative account for the purpose of making a point which was not very clearly made by the prosecution or appreciated by the Magistrate. Something or another, possibly, as Mr. Dillon says, the hullabaloo, induced the Assistant Station Master to come out. The witness says that he raised the outer and warner signals. As they were found down, and everybody says that they were down after the accident, the probability is that he tried to raise them, but if the machinery was working properly he could not do so. But he tried to reverse the points lever, which we understand to mean set back the points to free the loop from the through main. He could not do so, because it was locked. He went inside to get the key and meanwhile the collision took place. But the point is, what was it which induced him to go straight to the levers to reverse the points on coming out after hearing the hullabaloo, if he had not some indication that the points were set to loop? That he appreciated to the full, at the moment of the accident, that this was the fatal piece of evidence which might be used against him is quite clear from one of the witnesses he called in his own defence. The guard in charge of 102, the stationary train, had reached the platform some few minutes before the accident and he says that Sheo Baran Singh showed him (it must mean after the accident) that the train key was with him and the slides were showing main. There the defence let the matter rest. If the slides showed main- when admittedly the lever had been worked for the purpose of setting loop, the failure to act upon a defect in the working of the machinery was itself an act of grave neglect. The human intellect does not think things out in detail when doing daily work, but as illustrating the importance of the performance, of that duty, one may suppose that a man is taken with a fit and falls in a dead faint when in charge of a position like this and another man comes to take his place. The slides are showing main. The man, who has fainted, knows that they ought to show loop and the points are set to loop. Who is going to tell the new man, who arrives upon the scene, that the machinery is not working and that main represents loop.

3. Finally, the defence has made an effort to throw the blame partly on to the pointsman, and partly on to the man Ghariba who is supposed to have worked the signals. We have dealt with the question of the failure of the pointsman. If he failed in his duty, it would be indicated on the slide. In substance, the accused never attempted seriously to deny that he was responsible-for having the points set and the signals lowered. He was asked by the Magistrate whether he had satisfied himself on both points and he said yes. Jaswant Singh, the other Assistant Station Master, says that Ghariba was working the lever frame, but that the directions were being given by Sheo Baran Singh. The guard again desiring to assist the Assistant Station Master says that the Assistant Station Master was four minutes on the platform before the accident and that the signal-man was working the lever. He says that Sheo Baran Singh was tear him. It was obviously his duty, and it was a paltry position to take up, to shift his responsibility upon a man under him and a man medically unfit for his duty. It is not our business to describe exactly the sequence of events and to illustrate how this accident could have happened, so long as we are satisfied that it did happen, and that it might have, been prevented by the exercise of due precautions on the part of Sheo Baran Singh in having the loop line points set back to main Mr. Dillon is quite right in saying that probably the signals could not have been lowered while the points were set to loop. It is just possible that by some break in the machinery, the check did not work. We have dealt with that point, and if it did not work, the Station Master was well able to ascer-tain the fact. But we are not so satisfied, and no evidence was called to prove, that if the outer signal had first been lowered at the time when the line clear was given, that the loop could not be subsequently operated. It is equally Speculative but it is not improbable that after the 'line clear' had been given some half an hour before the accident, the change of plain by which the light engine was sent on to the siding and this at any rate was quite recent may have led to the points being set to loop and for the operation to have been successfully performed without altering the signals. It is a case involving danger to the public, and not merely to the public but what is even more import-ant, to the men themselves working on the railway, who are entitled to look to their colleaguues for the care which they themselves exercise, so that they may go about their daily duties with a sense of security. One is conscious of the failure in the performance of one's own duty andd every body is liable to make mistakes, but in all countries special legislation on railway systems has always made offences of this kind punish-able with what may seem severity and those who undertake duties of this kind must be made constantly aware of the heavy penalties visited upon serious neglect. This man has lost his post and no doubt the conduct of his de-fence has been a burden to him, but we cannot, under the circumstances, do less than to sentence him to one year's simple imprisonment with the alternative that he may reduce it to six months by a payment of a fine of Rs. 250 and each month except the last of this may be reduced by a payment of Rs. 40. The last will have to be Rs. 50: Any difficulty in carrying out this order should be communicated to this Court.


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