The DMRC was today pulled up by the Delhi High Court for trying to "cover up" the "inefficiency and ineptitude" of its officials, who failed to locate a mentally challenged woman after she was separated from her family while travelling on metro.
The 19-year-old woman, who went missing on April 21, was yesterday found wandering in Rewari district of Haryana by a policeman who took her to a Child Welfare Committee where she is being sheltered, the court was today told by the Delhi Police.
The court also directed that standard operating procedure (SOP) be put in place to deal with such situations.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri, while pleased by the efforts of the police and the "good samaritan" who helped the woman, did not mince words when it came to how the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) conducted itself in the matter.
The bench told the DMRC that the responsibility of its officials was not limited to collection of revenue, but also includes providing safety and security to the nearly 30 lakh commuters who travel regularly by metro.
The court was angered by the fact that the station controller of Adarsh Nagar station could not locate the woman, who was on the premises for nearly seven minutes, despite running past her, as per CCTV footage.
It was further displeased by an affidavit filed by the Chief Security Commissioner of the DMRC stating that it has issued a show cause notice to the station controller, but would not be taking any action against him as he took all bonafide and immediate necessary steps to locate the woman.
The bench said the DMRC officials "miserably failed" to inform the police when they came to know the woman has been separated from her family at the Jahangirpur Metro Station.
The court was also displeased by the submission in the affidavit that the station controller was not trained to deal with situations of this kind.
"If you (DMRC) are not fit or trained, remove yourself from there (operations). There are enough trained personnel around who can do the job. She (woman) was on the station for seven minutes. What was your man doing with his eyes? Was he day-dreaming? Your officer ran past her. She was walking back and forth in the station," the court said.
"This smacks of a cover up," the bench said after perusing the affidavit which said the station controller took all necessary steps to trace the woman.
"Nearly 30 lakh people travel on the metro everyday. You are putting all their lives in danger by having officials who are not trained to deal with such situations. These are trying times.
"What if there is a mishap? You are not trained or equipped to handle it. If you make a mistake, admit it. But you are covering it up. You are not there only to collect revenue, but to provide secure and safe services," the court said.
It further said, "We are extremely disappointed with the approach of DMRC in as much as its affidavit smacks of being an attempt to cover up their inefficiency and ineptitude in dealing with an incident of the kind that has occurred in the instant case."
The bench directed the Director (Operations) of DMRC to file an affidavit, before the next date, on the issue.
As the affidavit by DMRC also said there were no SOP in place to deal with such situations, the bench directed the Delhi government Transport Commissioner, the Police Commissioner, the DMRC Managing Director and DG of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to meet and formulate an SOP "to eliminate and obviate re- occurrence of such an unfortunate incident".
"Needless to state, the SOP shall include time lines within which actions proposed to be taken are specified apart from specifying action for making the general public aware of such incidents when they occur," the court said and listed the matter for hearing on August 22.
The committee constituted by the court was asked to file its status report, authored by the Transport Commissioner, within four weeks.
The bench also appointed an amicus curiae in the matter to assist it.
The court was of the view that the Delhi government "must consider instituting an award for good samaritans who come to the aid and assistance of citizens in their hour of need" as was done in the instant case.
It asked the Delhi government to consider awarding the policeman in Rewari who provided assistance to the victim.
The strong observations and directions came during hearing of a habeas corpus plea initiated by the court itself after it came across a news report that a speech-and-hearing impaired 19-year-old woman had gone missing on April 21 after getting separated from her family and exited at the wrong station.
On April 21, the woman, who is mentally challenged, was travelling with her family and could not get down with them at the Jahangirpur Metro Station. As per the CCTV camera footage at the next metro station at Adarsh Nagar, the woman had got down and exited the station but went missing thereafter.
The woman's mother was quoted in the report as saying that they were returning home from LNJP Hospital after a routine check-up of the woman when she went missing.