The bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice AK Sikri asked for the material and names of the labs where it could be tested, as petitioner Abhay Singh alleged that the railways was using substandard material that endangered passengers' lives during incidents of fire.

The petitioner, who appeared in person, alleged that the substandard and inferior materials used in cushions, cushion covers, curtains, flooring and wood partitions in the interiors of the railway coaches release toxic fumes, causing the deaths of passengers due to asphyxiation during a fire.

Additional Solicitor General NK Kaul contested the claim and sought to know what was the source of the information.

Kaul said if what the petitioner was saying had a sound basis, then the railways would not hesitate in taking necessary remedial steps.

He asked the petitioner to disclose the labs which gave him such reports.

The petitioner said, "The nexus between the officials and the suppliers to the Indian Railways is quite apparent and disturbing."

"It is unbelievable that the officials of the Indian Railways are unaware of the formation of a cartel," he said.

The plea sought that the matter be investigated and resolved at the earliest as the hapless passengers were risking their lives while travelling in trains, which are considered a safe and affordable mode of travel.

It said that in the recent past, there have been several accidents where many passengers were charred to death. The deaths were caused due to asphyxiation on account of inhalation of toxic gases which engulfed the passenger coaches.

The apex court had issued notice on February 28 to the railways and the Centre on Abhay Singh's plea.

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