The families of victims of the Air India Express crash in Mangalore last year are entitled to a minimum compensation of R75 lakh each, the Kerala High Court held on Wednesday.
Justice PR Ramachandran Menon passed the order while allowing a petition filed by Abdul Salam and Ramla, parents of 24-year-old B Mohammed Rafi, who was killed in the crash.
158 passengers and crew on board the Air India aircraft from Dubai had perished in the worst air disaster in the last decade, when the plane caught fire after one of its wings hit a hillock before landing at Kenjar in Mangalore.
The deceased’s brothers and sisters are also party to the petition. Union government and National Aviation company (erstwhile Air India) are the respondents in the case.
There were 166 persons on board the flight IX-892, piloted by a Serbian national. Operating the Boeing 737-800, the pilot had first tried to land and later attempted to gain altitude.
The court held that the carrier was liable to pay no fault liability of one lakh SDR (Special Drawing Rights equal to R75 lakh) to the petitioner. The SDR is a special currency issued by IMF. This is apart from whatever other compensation the petitioners are entitled to.
The petitioners prayed for a direction to settle the entire statutory claims made under the provision of the Air Act 1972 from the respondents on the death of Rafi. They had sought R1.5 crore as compensation.
Noting that India was a signatory to the Montreal Convention, the court said, “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 “first limb” of compensation as stipulated under Rule 21(1) of the Third schedule was with the said intent to provide the same as the “minimum compensation” payable in respect of death or the bodily injuries subject to the satisfaction of extent of damage, the court said.
“Since the extent of damage to any injury cannot be anything more than death”, no further proof is necessary to have sanctioned the minimum compensation of “R1 lakh SDR” in the case of death and this is the mandate of the Statute, it held.
The court said it was of the “firm belief” that Mohammed Rafi, who lost his life like the several