Delhi HC Grants Rs 50 Lakh Compensation To Heirs Of Medical Personnel Killed In Air Ambulance Crash [Read Judgment]
The Delhi High Court has ordered compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs each to the legal heirs of two doctors and a nurse who were killed in an air ambulance crash in 2011.
The contention raised by the United India Insurance Co Ltd, the insurer of the air craft, that it was liable to pay only Rs. 7.5 lakhs, which was the liability limited by the Carriage by Air Act 1972 for death due to air carriage accidents, was rejected by the Court.
The Court 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. In this regard, it noticed that Rule 22(1) of the Carriage by Air Rules provided that a carrier by a special contract may agree to a higher limit qua its liability.
As per the policy, the insurer had undertaken to indemnify the carrier to the extent of Rs. 50 lakhs per passenger in respect of accident liability.
The air ambulance, which crashed near Faridabad on May 25, 2011, was chartered to carry a patient from Patna to Delhi.
According to the petitioners, permission to operate the air ambulance was granted in violation of Civil Aviation Rules and meteorological forecast.
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, the petitioners submitted. Despite adverse weather forecast the Air Traffic Controller under the DGCA allowed the pilot to take off from Delhi airport and then from Patna airport.
Since the aircraft was light weight, strong wind pressure broke its tail, and came spiralling down on the house at Faridabad at night, killing eight persons on board.
The single bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait noticed that the High Court in 2016 had allowed a petition for compensation by the legal heirs of two pilots. In that case, the insurance company had contended that only passengers were covered under the policy and not the crew. But the court had rejected that plea and ordered Rs. 50 lakh compensation as per the policy.
Following that, the Court in the instant case held that the stand of insurer that there was no contract between the passengers and insurer and therefore they were only entitled to ₹ 7,50,000/- as per 1972 Act cannot be accepted.
The next contention of the insurer that the amounts received by the heirs from the employers of the deceased persons should be reduced from the compensation was also rejected saying "On this issue, I find no substance in view of the settled law that the collateral benefit received by the members of the family of deceased cannot be set-off".
"I hereby direct respondent no.1(carrier) to pay an amount of ₹7.5 lacs as per statutory liability under the Act 1972 and respondent no.2(insurer) 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.", ordered the Court.