Seeking autonomy for Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) for its effective functioning as an accident investigator, a parliamentary panel today described the prevailing scenario for probing rail mishaps by CRS as "disappointing" and its mandate as "greatly restricted."
"A new law is required to empower CRS for improving its functioning," said
CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, after submitting its report.
The committee, in its report, said that it is convinced that in the present safety scenario, a separate legislation needs serious consideration for clearly defining the role, powers and jurisdiction of CRS for ensuring its autonomy and effective functioning.
Although the Railway Act provides that CRS, which is under Civil Aviation Ministry, can investigate any accident notified or not, CRS in actual practice is not able to do so in view of the limitations--legal,
infrastructural, technical, manpower under which it has to function, the committee noted.
Terming it as disappointing picture, where CRS powers relating to accident investigation is concerned, the 31-member committee observed that basic mandate of CRS is greatly restricted.
"Therefore, the committee emphasises the need for empowering CRS for increasing its autonomy and effectiveness as an accident investigator," the report said.
CRS should be legally empowered to conduct inspection annually which is not the practice now, Yechury said.
Prior to 1953, CRS had the power of inspection but it was taken away by the Railways by an executive order that year.
Commenting on the executive order, the committee said it was of the view that the power to issue directions given to the Railways by the Act cannot be used to take away something given by the same Act.
The committee observed that in actual practice, CRS is able to investigate only some accidents notified by the General Managers and a large number of of accidents are left to be investigated by the Railways, the service provider themselves.
The Standing Committee noted that the changes in the safety codes were implemented without consultation with CRS. As such any change in rules or standards by the Railways needs the concurrence of Civil Aviation Ministry also also, it said.
The committee has demanded that the Railway Act should adequately be defined to demarcate the functions of the Railway Ministry and the Civil Aviation Ministry to avoid any confusion in respect of powers, mandate and autonomous working of CRS between the two ministries.
Civil Aviation Ministry had prepared a draft Commission of Railway Safety Bill which did not find favour with the Railways and eventually the proposal was dropped in 2010.
The committee said it has found that existing system in which CRS has to function, leaves much to be desired. CRS has to work under lot of limitations and has to depend for so many things on the Railways that it is not able to
execise, in actual practice, even those powers that are available to it in Railway Act and the rules made
thereunder, it said.
"Its autonomy is thus, greatly impaired," the committee observed.
Civil Aviation Ministry has just provided office space to CRS and all functions are provided by the Railways, it said.
The report said CRS was not having much say in the monitoring of railway safety presently in the country except accident investigation and inspection of new lines before they were commissioned.
CRS is not having any power to carry out annual audit of safety parametres of Indian Railways, it observed.
The committee emphasised that CRS should be strengthened with required powers and autonomy for the betterment of railway safety in the