New hurdles for Air India crash compensation

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New hurdles for Air India crash compensation

Almost a year after the Air India Mangalore crash claimed 158 lives, the disbursal of compensation to the relatives of the victims has hit new legal hurdles.

By (Sajila Saseendran)

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Published: Mon 25 Apr 2011, 2:09 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 4:49 AM

Relatives of several crash victims have been at loggerheads with Air India, its legal consultant and insurance company ever since they learnt that the compensation claims are being calculated based on what they call ‘the loss of livelihood rather than the loss of life.’

In January, the new Indian Civil Aviation Minister, Vayalar Ravi, had responded positively to their plea to apply the provisions of the Montreal Convention that assures compensation for the loss of life, which amounts to nearly Rs7.5million.

However, the minister, who had assured speedy disbursal of maximum compensation to the next of kin of the crash victims, on Sunday said the procedures have now been delayed due to a pending case in the Kerala High Court based on a petition filed by one of the relatives seeking rightful compensation.

At a Press conference in Dubai, Ravi said he had held discussions to speed up the procedures after his meeting with the relatives and organisations supporting them during his visit to Dubai in January.

“I had also sought an explanation for the progress on the procedures. In between, I have been told that the case in Kerala High Court is pending, and there is delay because of that.”

Since the court has taken over the issue, he said, the ministry was awaiting judgement for taking any further action.

“Unfortunately, the judge hearing the case requested the CJ (Chief Justice) to depute some other judge for this case and I guess he has been transferred,” he said, pointing out that the development had hampered the process.

He said the ministry could not set any time frame for settling compensation claims as it primarily depends on negotiations between the insurance company and the claimants. “They also stopped discussions…I believe it is not going on because now it is a court case,” he said.

“We want some kind of a ruling or judgement at the earliest. This can’t be pending for long. It is already pending (for long). We want to settle it at the earliest and get the maximum benefit to the relatives,” said the minister.

An Air India official said the airline’s counsel has so far settled a total of 54 claims including those by three of the eight survivors.

Recently, advocate and solicitor Hoshang D Nanavati, who represents Air India’s legal counsel, reportedly said that his firm was able to settle cases where the issue of applying 100,000 SDR (Special Drawing Rights), equivalent to $160,000 did not arise.

The Times of India quoted Nanavati as saying that the amount arrived at during the final settlement after counselling, was paid minus the interim amount already paid to victims’ families.

Questioned about the safety measures taken based on the investigation into the crash, Arvind Jadhav, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India’s parent company, National Aviation Company of India Ltd, said that the airline would soon make public the steps taken during the past one year. “We are now preparing a whole list of what all actions we have taken. That should come out in public domain in a week’s time,” he told Khaleej Times.

On a separate issue, Vayalar Ravi said he has ordered the Indian Airlines officials to revoke a recent decision to charge Dh18,000 instead of Dh3,500 for using stretchers by ill passengers to be airlifted. The move followed a complaint raised by Malabar Pravasi Coordination Council.

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