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The Delhi High Court has awarded a sum of Rs. 50 lakh each as compensation to the legal heirs of the two doctors and one nurse who were killed in the air ambulance crash in Faridabad in 2011.
While the owner of the air ambulance service, Air Charters Services Pvt Ltd., has been directed to pay Rs 7.5 lakh as per the statutory liability under the Carriage by Air Act 1972, United India Insurance Company Ltd has been directed to pay an amount of Rs. 42.5 lakh with interest @6 percent per annum from the date of filing of petitions.
The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait in petitions by the legal heirs of the deceased doctors and nurse seeking compensation from Air Charters and its insurance company United India Insurance.
It was the Petitioners’ case that air ambulance, ‘Pilatus’, took off from Patna on the night of May 25, 2011, after flouting and by-passing aircraft rules and ignoring the meteorological forecast.
The Petitioner submitted that as per the Civil Aviation Rules, a single Engine Aircraft could not be operated at night or in bad weather conditions even for medical evacuation purposes.
Although the IMD weather forecast for the night was not fit for flying a single engine Aircraft, the Air Traffic Controller under the DGCA allowed the pilot to take off from Delhi airport and then from Patna airport.
It was thus argued that the death of all the passengers on board as well as people on the ground was due to the negligent act of the officials of DGCA as well as the owner of the air ambulance who allowed the flight to operate only to earn money.
The Petitioners, therefore, sought compensation from the air ambulance owners and the insurance company.
Refuting any liability, United India stated that its liability under the policy arose only after the legal liability of Air Charters was established and it was limited up to Rs. 50 lacs per passenger and baggage.
In the present case, the legal liability of the Air Charters could not exceed Rs 7.5 lakh as the same was fixed under the Carriage by Air Act 1972 and Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Notification dated March 30, 1973, United India claimed.
It was further stated that since the insurance contract was only between the air ambulance owner and United India Insurance, there was no privity of contract between itself and the Petitioners.
The Court was also informed that the Petitioners had already received a huge amount from the employer of the deceased M/s Indraprastha Medical Corporation Limited.
Air Charters also pleaded that the petitions were not maintainable and were liable to be dismissed for the reason that the petitioners were entitled only to a fixed and specified compensation of Rs 7.5 lakh.
It was further submitted that in case if at any stage, it was found that the petitioners are entitled to any compensation, then the same was recoverable from United Insurance which has coverage to the extent of ₹ 50 lacs for each person.
Relying on the decision of the Court in a plea moved by the legal heirs of the deceased pilot and co-pilot in the crash, the Court concluded that even the crew members came in the category of passengers for the purpose of insurance liability.
It further stated that under Section 5(2) of the Carriage by Air Act, the liability in case of death was enforceable for the benefit of family members of the deceased which would include the wife, parent or even the brother and sister etc.
The Court also held that since the insurance contract was a special contract between insured and the insurer, its liability would be in addition to the liability of the carrier under the 1972 Act.
It thus awarded an amount of ₹ 50 lakh to each passenger as compensation.
“In view of above, I hereby direct respondent no.1 to pay an amount of ₹7.5 lacs as per statutory liability under the Act 1972 and respondent no.2 is directed to pay an amount of ₹ 42.5 lacs with interest @ 6% per annum from the date of filing of petitions to the petitioners in each petition within four weeks from the receipt of this order, failing which the petitioners shall be entitled to interest @ 12 % p.a. on delayed payment.”
The Petitioners were represented by Advocates Aruna Mehta and Sanjeev Mehta.
Air Charters was represented by Advocates DD Singh and Navdeep Singh.
United India Insurance was represented by Advocates AK De, Rajesh Dwivedi, Aanya De and Zahid Ali.
Image taken from here.
Read the Judgement :