List of Contents
Source: The post is based on the article “Why is CRS, the body investigating the Odisha rail accident, under the Aviation Ministry” published in the Indian Express on 7th June 2023
What is the News?
The investigation of the recent train crash in Odisha is being conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety for the south-eastern circle. Rail safety commissioners are part of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), a government body that acts as the railway safety authority in the country.
What is the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS)?
Headquartered in: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Functions: CRS deals with matters related to the safety of rail travel and operations, among some other statutory functions mentioned under the Railways Act, 1989. These statutory functions include inspectorial, investigatory, and advisory functions.
Investigating serious train accidents is one of the key responsibilities of the CRS.
Administrative control: The CRS is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
Why CRS is kept under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA)?
The CRS does not report to the Ministry of Railways of the Railway Board. The reason or principle behind this is to keep the CRS insulated from the influence of the country’s railway establishment and prevent conflicts of interest.
What is the evolution of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS)?
Initially, the railways in India were constructed and operated by private companies. At the time, the British Indian government appointed ‘consulting engineers’ for effective control and oversight of the developing railway network and operations.
Later, when the British Indian government undertook the construction of railways in the country, the consulting engineers were re-designated as ‘government inspectors’. In 1883, their position was recognised statutorily.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Railway Inspectorate was placed under the Railway Board. As per the Indian Railway Board Act, 1905, the Railway Board was entrusted with powers and functions of the government under various sections of the Railway Act and was also authorised to make rules for railway operations in India.
The Government of India Act, 1935 said that functions for securing the safety of railway operations should be performed by an authority independent of the federal railway authority or the Railway Board. These functions included conducting railway accident probes. But due to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the idea was not executed.
In 1939, a panel headed by the then chief inspecting officer of the British Railways, A.H.L. Mount, said that the separation of the Railway Inspectorate from the Railway Board was “very desirable”. In 1940, the Central Legislature endorsed the idea and principle of separation of the Railway Inspectorate from the Railway Board. Consequently, in 1941, the Railway Inspectorate was separated from the Railway Board and put under the administrative control of the then Department of Posts and Air.
The Inspectorate was re-designated as the CRS in 1961 and has been under the control of the central ministry exercising control over civil aviation in India.