The Supreme Court issued a notice on October 18th to the special leave petitions filed by passengers seeking compensation for their losses in the tragic Air India Express Flight IX-1344 crash at Karipur International Airport, Kozhikkode in 2020. A Special Leave Petition against a division bench judgment of the Kerala High Court that had rejected the petitioners’ claim for compensation was heard by the bench of Justices C.T. Ravikumar and Sanjay Kumar. In addition, the court linked it to the ongoing civil appeals concerning the same matter that resulted from the 2010 Mangalore aircraft accident.
The petitioners claim that respondent no. 2, through negotiation agencies, Air India Express provided the impacted parties with merely a little amount of compensation. The petitioners took this money, thinking it was a stopgap measure against the air carrier’s “second-tier liability” for the losses they had suffered. They anticipated that each of their claims under the Third Schedule’s “first tier liability,” as defined by Rule 21(1) of the Carriage By Air Act 1972, would be handled independently. But because respondent number two neglected to perform this legally mandated obligation to the petitioners, they turned to the High Court.
The Kerala High Court’s Single Bench first denied the writ petition, concluding that the respondent had no right to private remedy and that had ceased to be a public functionary after the Government of India’s complete disinvestment from the airline. The Division Bench denied the petitioners’ appeal, stating that they could not afterwards contest the compensation as being less than the required amount since they had freely accepted the amount that was first provided. The petitioners, offended by the same, went to the Supreme Court.
In the present case, the petitioners claim that the Division Bench failed to comprehend the structure of the Third Schedule of the Act, which has incorporated the Montreal Convention of 1999. For victims of air carrier accidents, an international treaty and statute schedule provide a two-tier compensation structure, with non-negotiable first-tier compensation.
In their plea, the petitioners argue that an international agreement guarantees them the right to at least one lakh Special Drawing Rights (SDR) in compensation. They refer to the Supreme Court’s ruling in K.S. Puttaswami v. Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1, which established the precedent that rights granted by foreign treaties or conventions are fundamental human rights that are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and cannot be waived.
In addition, the petitioners contend that as part of India’s international responsibilities, the Air Act, 1972, integrated the Third Schedule into the Carriage. India was required to pass the relevant laws in order to put the 1999 Montreal Convention into effect because it was a signatory to the agreement and a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Written by N.Yogendra Mani of KL University Vijayawada Andhra Pradesh ( 5th semester) an intern under Legal Vidhiya