Indian Railways logoThe Delhi High Court, on July 15, directed Indian Railways to ensure that wait-listed passengers holding e-tickets are treated on par with wait-listed passengers holding physical tickets. The Railways have been given 6 months to comply. Wait-listed passengers with a physical ticket are at present allowed to board the train and occupy seats of passengers with reservation who fail to show up. On the other hand, wait-listed e-tickets are cancelled automatically at the time of preparation of the final chart before departure of the train. (Hat Tip: Apar Gupta)

The petitioner’s lawyer cited Rule 2.11.1 d & e of Commercial Circular No.36 of 2011 dated 7th July, 2011 and titled “Introduction of e-ticketing and ticketing through mobile phone on Web Portal of Indian Railways” issued by the Railway Board to substantiate the claim of discrimination. It clearly states that wait-listed passengers holding e-tickets are prohibited from boarding the train and that their tickets will be automatically cancelled.

The Indian Railways contended in its counter affidavit that even wait-listed passengers holding tickets in the physical form are not entitled to board the train. It added that unreserved tickets for sleeper and three tier classes can be obtained and persons holding such tickets can approach the Onboard Ticket Checking Staff who can allow them to board the train subject to availability of accommodation and on payment of necessary charges. This in effect means that wait-listed passenger holding ticket in the physical form can board a train subject to availability of accommodation but e-ticket wait-listed passenger cannot travel.

The Court was of the same opinion and referred to Section 155 of The Railways Act, 1989, which prohibits any passenger from entering a compartment wherein no berth or seat has been reserved for his use. Justice Sahai added that Section 155 doesn’t make any distinction between passengers holding e-tickets and those with tickets in the physical form.

Justice Rajiv Sahai also directed the Railways to ensure that touts (ticketing agents) don’t block seats by making reservation under bogus names and then sell the seats to bona fide passengers willing to pay premium. During Railway Budget 2014 ticketing on mobile phones in the unreserved segment was introduced. It was also said that IRCTC would be expanded to enable passengers to book specific coaches, berths and seats. Indian Railways sold 116 million e-tickets in 2011-12 and reported total revenues of Rs 9498 crore.

Our Take

This was a bizarre rule. A ticket is a ticket, whether booked online or offline, and should have the same value, and be governed by the same set of rules. This isn’t the first time that e-tickets have come under the scanner. In March 2014, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had ordered an antitrust probe against the IRCTC for alleged unfair trade practices while providing online train ticketing.