To exercise effective control over the construction and operation of the first railways in India, which were entrusted to private companies, Consulting Engineers were appointed under the Government of India. Later when the Government undertook the construction of railways, the Consulting Engineers were designated as Government Inspectors. In 1883, their position was statutorily recognised. Later, the Railway Inspectorate was placed under the Railway Board which was established in 1905.
Under the Indian Railway Board Act, 1905 and Notification No.801 dated 24th March, 1905 of the Department of Commerce and Industry, the Railway Board was vested with powers and functions of the Central Government under various sections of the Railway Act and was authorised to make General Rules for the operation of Railways. The Railway Board is thus the Safety Controlling Authority for the working and operation of Government and Company managed railways.
Section 181(3) of the Government of India Act of 1935 provided that functions for securing the safety, both of the travelling public and of persons operating the railways, including the holding of inquiries into the causes of accidents, should be performed by an authority independent of the Federal Railway Authority. Due to the outbreak of the war, the constitution of the Federal Railway Authority did not materialise and the Inspectorate continued to function under the Railway Board.
To avoid direct subordination of the Railway Inspectorate to the Railway Board, the Pacific (Engines with 4-6-2 configuration of wheels are called “Pacific Locos”) Locomotive Committee, headed by Lt. Col. A.H.L. Mount, then Chief Inspecting Officer of the British Railways, suggested in para 210 of their report, submitted in 1939, as under:- “We understand that, under the Govt. of India Act, 1935, it is contemplated that the Inspectorate will be separated from the control of the Railway Board. This is very desirable in so far as it will eradicate the present anomaly of the Board being the Inspecting as well as the executive Authority. We were informed that the Board fully appreciate the position, and would welcome the change, although it appears that, in practice, Government Inspectors have generally retained their freedom of judgement.
The principle of separation of the Railway Inspectorate from the Railway Board was endorsed in 1940 by the Central Legislature who recommended that “Senior Government Inspectors of Railways should be placed under the Administrative control of some authority of the Govt. of India other than the Railway Board.” Accordingly, the Railway Inspectorate was placed under the administrative control of the Department of “Posts and Air” in May 1941 and continuously thereafter under whichever Ministry that held the portfolio of Civil Aviation.
The erstwhile Railway Inspectorate was re-designated as the Commission of Railway Safety on 1.11.1961.