Budget airline AirBlue has decided to compensate heirs of the 2010 crash victims if they withdraw their lawsuits against the company, the petitioners’ counsel told Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday.
“AirBlue has communicated to petitioners that compensation will be given to them once they step down and cases are withdrawn from court,” Umer Farooq Aadam, who is representing the aggrieved families, told a divisional bench of the PHC, which is headed by Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan. He said that despite court orders, the company has not paid compensation, which is worth Rs5 million.
“File a contempt of court application and submit it,” the chief justice told Aadam, adding that the court will continue with the case until the heirs of the last victim were compensated.
Aadam told The Express Tribune that the airline’s administration, in order to protect 152 companies that can be held responsible for the crash, had also asked the heirs to sign a universal relief agreement, which bars them from filing a petition against these companies anywhere in the world.
In an earlier hearing, CJ Khan had ordered the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to arrange inspection of aircraft of national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and other private companies and an examination of CAA’s own performance by experts from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The order was passed over reports that many PIA planes were unsafe.
Abdul Rehman Abbasi, CAA’s senior law officer, informed the court on Tuesday that a letter has been sent to the ICAO to send a team of experts. “They (ICAO) have sought time to send a team but to avoid further delay in inspection of aircraft, we request that a retired senior judge of the high court be appointed to inspect PIA’s planes,” he said.
But the CJ said that foreign experts should inspect PIA aircraft. “Why are you apprehensive of foreign experts? We have received information that substandard spare parts are being used to replace damaged ones. We know that a company grounded 65 aircraft when one of its aircraft crashed,” he said.
Speaking about the AirBlue crash, Abbasi told the court that all transcripts, including that of the pilot’s conversation with the control tower, radar and co-pilot, were available and could be produced before the court.
DNA tests of crash victims
Many crash victims could not be identified despite DNA testing at KRL Hospital in the federal capital, an official of Islamabad’s Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences told the court on Tuesday.
However, Junaid Hamid, a relative of a crash victim told The Express Tribune that KRL had demanded Rs4.6 million from AirBlue for conducting the tests but the company refused and DNA tests were never conducted. The report offered to be produced before the court is fake, he said.
Ministry of defence
Thirty-seven of 84 applicants had been compensated while 22 cheques are ready for distribution, according to Tanveerul Islam, counsel for the defence secretary, who appeared before the court on Tuesday. He said the heirs were paid Rs0.5 million each.
Barrister Momin, who also represented the defence ministry, told The Express Tribune that the Sindh High Court had directed district and sessions judges to dispose of applications of all successors pertaining to the compensation case within ten days of the date the application is filed.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.