THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The special drive initiated by the Southern Railways last week to book passengers who were found drunk on trains and in railway stations is mired in a controversy as a section of the passengers allege that it was against a four-decade-old order of the Supreme Court.
The order dated December 18, 1970 in Bachubhai Hassnalli Kary v/s State of Maharashtra says, ‘’Medical jurisprudence, drunkenness cannot be said to be conclusively proved unless urine or blood test carried out. Mere smelling of alcohol, unsteady gait, dilation of pupils and incoherence in speech not enough.’’
"The new drive by Railways is nothing but an effort to cover up the recent faults on their part in ensuring the safety of women passengers which resulted in an uproar. The effect of alcohol will remain for eight hours and the medical examination during the period would prove positive. Hence, the Railway authorities can misuse it by arresting a passenger, if he arrives at the station early morning, after having a few drinks on the previous night,’’ alleges Philipose Padickal, founder Secretary, Forum for Better Spirits.
"None would be harassed on account of this drive,’’ said K J Joy, Divisional Security Commissioner, Railway Protection Force. "We book only those who found traveling with alcohol and those who are unsteady after having alcohol. No one accompanied by family would be checked,’’ he said.
"The Railways initiative is silent on other intoxicants or drugs, the misuse of which often make persons more violent than the use of alcohol could,’’ Philipose Padickal said. It is also pointed that the use of breath-analyser, the practice to identify boozers, is unhygienic as it can result in spreading communicable diseases.
Divisional Security Commissioner said any passenger can complain at 999 50 40000, a 24-hour helpline, if they find any Railway official or passengers in an intoxicated state.
Meanwhile, the advertisement of the Palace on Wheels, the most luxurious train in India operated by Rajasthan Tourism through the tourist destinations of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, boasts of "a well-stocked bar serves wine, liquor and spirits of Indian and International make, to keep you in ‘High Spirits’,’’ among its common facilities.