LAHORE - MIAN DAWOOD - The compensation for the families of victims of air accidents had been reduced by 50 per cent (about Rs12 million) with the passage of Carriage by Air Act by the Parliament on February 8, 2012.

Since the creation of the Pakistan, the government had never paid factual compensation to the heirs of more than 900 victims of 14 air accidents under the relevant laws. Legal experts believe that the approval of recent act by the Parliament, which consists of PPP, PML-N, ANP, MQM, PML-Q and others, exposed the authorities.

“The government has reduced the compensation to 125,000 francs despite implementation of the Carriage by Air International Convention Act 1966 under which the airline was bound to pay 250,000 francs (nearly Rs 25 million) to the heirs of victims,” the experts said.

The compensation of 125,000 francs under the act can be claimed only when the plane of the air company has international operations and its accident took place during a domestic flight.

However, if the company is limited to its domestic operations, such as Bhoja Airline, then Rs50 million would be paid as compensation under the Carriage by Air Act 2012.

Section 17 says: “The carrier is liable for damages sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused the damage so sustained took place onboard the aircraft or in course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

Section 22(1) states: “In the carriage of passengers, the liability of the carrier for each passenger is limited to the sum of 125,000 francs, nearly 12 million in Pakistani currency. Where damages may be awarded in the form of periodical payments, the equivalent capital value of the said payments shall not exceed 125,000 francs. Nevertheless, by special contract the carrier and the passenger may agree to a higher limit of liability.”

Clause (2) of Section 22 points out: “In the carriage of registered luggage and of goods, the liability of the carrier is limited to some of 25 francs per kilogramme, unless the consigner has made at the time when the package was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of the value at delivery and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires. In that case the carrier will be liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum, unless he proves that the sum is greater than the actual value to the consigner at delivery.”

The experts say to hoodwink the heirs of deceased, the administration of the airlines normally gets their signatures after the accidents and pay them Rs500,000-Rs1million.

But, when the heirs came to know about their actual right they approach the courts, senior lawyer Sajjad Mahmood Butt said citing the Margalla crash victims case. The Bhoja Airline and the government will try to satisfy the aggrieved families by giving them nominal compensation, but, they should refused and demand their actual right under the Carriage by Air Act 2012.

“If the government makes sure the implementation of the 1966’s Act, the victim families of Bhoja tragedy may get huge compensation other than 2012’s Act. But once again the politicians” he added. As per Rule 21 of the Fifth Schedule of the Carriage by Air Act, 2012 each family is entitled to receive compensation of Rs5million.

If it is proved that the air crash was occurred due to negligence, wrongful act or default of the air carrier or its servants, then there is no monetary limit and air carrier is liable for ‘proven damages’ on top of basic compensation.

The determination of compensation amount would be done under the important factors including age of the deceased, educational status, employment/business, marital status, loss of dependency and also loss of love and affection.

Losses of pecuniary benefits, which the claimant has been deprived on account of negligence of the air carrier, would be assessed under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1955 while non-pecuniary benefits would be evaluated on the premises of Common Law of Torts.

In order to meet the immediate economic needs, the victim’s family members are also entitled for advance payment under the provisions of the Carriage by Air Act, 2012 without delay. However, advance payment will be off set against subsequent compensation.

Importantly, Rule 179 (2) (c) of Civil Aviation Rules, 1994 requires that each airline seeking permission to operate flights from to and within Pakistan shall maintain a ‘comprehensive insurance’ policy covering aircraft, passengers, cargo, and third party risks.

In domestic market, insurance companies individually do not carry the larger risks that are attendant to the operation of commercial aircrafts. That’s why these insurance companies get re-insurance from the London-based Lloyd’s Syndicate which is the world’s largest aviation re-insurance market. It is made up of members of syndicate who underwrite insurance risks.

Actual compensation never paid in Pakistan history