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Aero India 2023

Court asks Indian Airlines to pay compensation to Kandahar hijack victims

Indian plane IC-814 hijacked in December 1999 at the Kandahar airport in Afghanistan. File photo

NEW DELHI (BNS): A Delhi court has asked Indian Airlines (IA) to compensate all the passengers of flight IC-814 that was hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999.

The relief for the victims comes nine years after the IA flight was hijacked from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999 and flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

The Delhi state consumer disputes redressal commission wants the airline to disburse Rs 1 lakh each to 174 passengers. The legal heirs of Rupin Katyal, the sole passenger who was killed by the terrorists, would get Rs five lakh, the court said in its order.

The compensation for the victims of the hijack episode comes at a time when the Indian government is making frantic efforts to build an anti-terror infrastructure in the country to prevent any terrorist strikes following the recent Mumbai mayhem. This is the first time in India that terror attack victims have been compensated.

Justice J D Kapoor of the consumer forum gave his order on an appeal filed by Ashok Gupta who was one of the passengers on IC-814 flight.

The appellant moved the court after IA denied compensation to the passengers, citing rule 17 of the Carriage Act 1972. It stated that the carrier is liable only if a passenger dies or is wounded or suffers bodily injury in an accident that takes place onboard the aircraft or during its embarking or disembarking operations.

But Justice Kapoor stressed that every passenger was entitled to be compensated under section 14 (1) (h) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, as they had suffered some degree of injury and agony.

IC-814 was on its way to New Delhi from Kathmandu when it was hijacked and first taken to Amritsar from where it was allowed to take-off. The hijackers took the aircraft to Kandahar where passengers were held captive for more than a week.

The consumer forum felt that the passengers faced a grave situation for a long time and could have faced injuries. It felt that the airline was not interpreting “bodily and personal injury” in the correct manner as it was not taking into account the psychological state of the victims.

Justice Kapoor also directed the DGCA to issue instructions to all airlines to undertake security check of all passengers at the time of embarking the aircraft even after the multi-layer security check.

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