The Supreme Court Friday sought responses from the central government and the Indian Railways on the use of substandard material in the coach interiors that released toxic fumes thus causing the death of passengers due to asphyxiation during incidents of fire.
The bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice on a plea by petitioner advocate Abhay Singh seeking direction to the government to ban the use of substandard and inferior material in cushions, cushion covers, curtains, flooring and wood partitions.
"The nexus between officials of and suppliers to the Indian Railways is quite apparent and disturbing," the plea said.
"It is unbelievable that officials of the Indian Railways are unaware of the formation of a cartel," it said.
The plea said the matter needs to be investigated and resolved at the earliest as hapless passengers were being exposed to risks while travelling in trains which are considered a safe and affordable mode of travel.
The petitioner told the court that in recent past, there has been several accidents where many passengers were charred to death.
The deaths, he said, were caused by asphyxiation on account of inhalation of toxic gases, engulfing the passenger coaches.
He said the toxicity was caused by poisonous gases released by the inferior and substandard material used by Indian Railways in the interior furnishings.
The plea said the standards as defined by the railways' own Research, Design and Standards Organisation were not being followed.
"Test reports clearly indicate that the toxicity index of these materials exceed much beyond the specified permissible limits," it said.
The petitioner sought directions that all materials used in coaches be tested and fire and safety standards and other parameters followed in the making of sleeper coaches.