Mangalore air crash: Rs.75 lakh for each victim’s kin (Second Lead)

July 20th, 2011 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Kochi, July 20 (IANS) National carrier Air India is set to pay Rs.75 lakh ($168,000) each to the families of 158 passengers killed in the Mangalore crash last year, following a direction from the Kerala High Court Wednesday.

Justice P.R. Ramachandran Menon gave the direction on a petition of the family of Mohammed Rafi, who was killed in the May 22 crash.

“The compensation is one of the highest to be paid by the airline. The payment will come from our insurance provider,” a senior Air India official told IANS, on condition of anonymity.

The flag carrier initially paid a compensation of Rs.20 lakh each to the victims’ kin as per the terms of the Montreal Convention on air carriers’ liability.

The Air India Express flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway while landing at the Bajpe airport, about 20 km from Mangalore, and caught fire after plunging about 300 metres off a cliff.

The court directed Air India to pay the compensation in a month’s time and also look into compensation to be given under the international treaty.

Each victim would be entitled to a minimum of Rs.75 lakh compensation, according to Sreedharan Nair, counsel for the relatives of Rafi.

“For my client, I had claimed Rs.15 million (Rs.150 lakh), and his case would go on. It is the insurance companies that pay,” Nair told IANS.

Airline officials said the compensation was close to the highest ever paid by the airline and that they would go through the court order.

“We have even paid Rs.1 crore each as compensation. It (compensation) is a case by case matter,” G. Prasada Rao, assistant general manager, corporate communications, Air India, told IANS.

The Montreal Convention, signed under the aegis of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 1999, establishes rules concerning compensation for the victims of air disasters.

The convention also protects passengers’ rights to claim compensation from either the airline or a third party liability system provider, which includes insurance companies, without the need for lengthy litigation.

The court in its judgment said that under the convention victims were entitlement to a “minimum of one lakh SDR (special drawing rights)”.

The SDR is a mix of currency values established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As per the current value, one lakh SDR adds up to Rs.75 lakh.

“It is clear that the intention of lawmakers was to bring about a parity in the matter of payment of compensation to the passengers, irrespective of class of travel, while providing for a ‘two-tier system’ of compensation as adopted in Montreal convention,” the court said.

No further proof was necessary to sanction the minimum compensation of one lakh SDR in the case of death and this was the mandate of the statute, the court held.

The court in its order said that the extra compensation would be exclusive of any other compensation made by the airline or the state.

On an average, about Rs.20 lakh each was paid to the victims’ family apart from other aid provided by the central and state governments.

Soon after the accident, the civil aviation ministry announced Rs.10 lakh each compensation for families of the dead.

The Karnataka government offered Rs.3 lakh each as compensation while Rs.2 lakh each was given to the victims’ kin from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

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