India's national carrier Air India is set to pay Rs7.5 million ($168,000) each to the families of 158 passengers killed in the Mangalore crash last year, following a direction from the Kerala High Court on Wednesday.
Justice P.R. Ramachandran Menon passed the order on a petition filed by Abdul Salam and Ramla, parents of 24-year-old victim B. Mohammed Rafi, who was killed in the May 22 crash. The brothers and sisters of the deceased were also parties to the petition.
The court also directed Air India to pay the interim compensation in a month's time and also to look into compensation to be given under the international treaty.
Welcoming the judgment, Air India authorities said they were ready to pay the compensation as directed by the court. They said that the airline had already initiated steps to give the compensation. The officials said they would go through the court order.
"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 said.
"We have even paid Rs10 million each as compensation. It (compensation) is a case by case matter," said G. Prasada Rao, assistant general manager, corporate communications, Air India.
The crash of the Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express flight 812 on May 22 claimed 158 lives, including that of 52 Malayalees, most of them from the northern districts of Kasargod and Kannur. The aircraft plunged about 300 metres off a cliff and caught fire after it overshot the runway while landing at the Bajpe airport, about 20km from Mangalore. The petitioners had claimed Rs15 million under the provision of the Air Act 1972 as the crash had occurred due to no fault of the passengers. Sreedharan Nair, counsel for the relatives of Mohammed Rafi, said the case would continue. The National Aviation Company, which controls Air India, sought to settle the claims taking the age, income or dependency of the members of his family into account. As per this it had offered Rs3.5 million to the kin of the victims.
However, the court observed that the petitioners could not be discriminated by the airline restricting the compensation. The court ruled that the carrier was liable to pay no fault liability of 100,000 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) equalling to Rs7.5 million to the petitioner after deducting the advance payments.