The Supreme Court is examining deadly fires on India’s trains after a PIL raised the subject. The court is exploring claims that, when a train catches fire, more deaths are caused by asphyxia due to toxic gases released by “sub-standard” interior furnishing materials than by the actual blaze.In a unique order, a Bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu directed the Centre and the Indian Railways to submit samples of curtains, cushions, rexin and PVC-coated fibreglass.
“We want to check if sub-standard materials are indeed being used. We want to check if asphyxiation is the real cause for most deaths in the event of a fire in train. You give us the material, we will send it to the lab ourselves,” Dattu told Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul.
Defending the railways, Kaul said good-quality materials were being used, but added, “if there is any deficiency, we are, of course, happy to rectify”.
He told the court: “Everything is as per ISO standards. Large parts of the blame should go to the massive quantity of luggage carried by passengers, over which we do not have any control.” The Bench asked the railways to submit samples of materials which were manufactured during 2013-14 and indicate laboratories where tests can be conducted. The court has set a two-week deadline for this information to be submitted.