Air Blue victims: Justice or peanuts?

Compensation is a fundamental right of the victims' legal heirs but Airblue did not compensate them.

Shah Murad March 14, 2011

In Pakistan, the government authorities have a superb record and unmatched history of never providing authentic information about aircraft accidents. It is expected that the Air Blue Flight ED 202 tragedy will be a similar story.

In the United Sates, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent statutory federal agency, is responsible for investigating all civil aircraft accidents. Its principal areas of concern are violations of Federal Air Regulations (FARs) and deficiencies in Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) systems or procedures. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) may be called upon as a party to the investigation. In addition, it also provides assistance to the victims’ of aircraft accidents and their families. The NTSB develops safety recommendations based on their investigations and studies in order to prevent similar accidents. There are similar independent and statutory boards in other countries as well.

For preventing aircraft accidents in the future there is a need of constituting an independent statutory federal agency in Pakistan. It should entirely be separate from the CAA and be charged with conducting the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and incidents, to issue safety recommendations and publish investigation reports.

The victims’ family members and general public have right to know the reasons behind the aircraft accidents. But what and who caused the plane crashes? It is still a mystery.

Moreover, in the name of compensation the victim’s family members have also been humiliated. In a desperate attempt the victims’ family members have formed “Airblue Crash Affectees Group” and protest for their legal rights but nothing has worked. Compensation is a fundamental right of the victims’ legal heirs but Airblue did not compensate them in accordance with the law.

Air Blue Flight ED 202 was not an international flight but Rule 179 (2) (c) and 199 of Civil Aviation Rules, 1994 treat a passenger of domestic flight and an international flight equally when it comes to compensation.

These Rules require that airlines should maintain comprehensive insurance by covering the aircraft, flight crew, passengers, cargo, and third party risks for operating flights from, to and within Pakistan at a level required by the ICAO Convention which is currently governed by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air commonly known as the Montréal Convention, 1999.

Pakistan signed the Montréal Convention on May 28, 1999 and ratified the Convention on December 19, 2006 and it came into force on February 17, 2007. And under Article 17 (1) and 21 (1) of the Montréal Convention the carrier is liable to pay 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to each passenger against damages of bodily injury or death. On February 24, 2011 one SDR was equal to Rs133.963. Based on this conversion rate 113,100 SDR will be equivalent to Rs15,151,215.30. In accordance with provisions of the Montréal Convention, Air Blue and JS Air are strictly liable to pay the same amount as compensation to each passenger’s legal heirs.

However, EFU (insurer of Air Blue and JS Air) announced only Rs5, 550,000 as compensation to each victim’s legal heirs, which is a gross violation of the rules.

The case of Sun Way is different from Airblue and JS Air. The plane had eight crew members and four persons on the ground died as a result of the crash. Out of the crew members seven were from the Ukraine, one was Russian, and the four victims on the ground were Pakistani nationals.

The compensation matter of four Pakistani victims is covered under the provisions of Convention on Damage Caused by Foreign Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface signed at Rome, on October 7, 1952. It is commonly known as the Rome Convention, 1952. Pakistan signed the Rome Convention, 1952 on February 25, 1957 and ratified it on November 6, 1957.

Article 1 (1) of the Rome Convention, 1952 says that any person who suffers damage on the surface caused by a foreign aircraft in flight be entitled for compensation against damages. The Article 2 (1) of the Convention stipulates that the liability for compensation contemplated by Article 1 of this Convention shall lie with the operator of the aircraft (registered owner).

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on 2 May 2009 adopted a new treaty “Convention on Compensation for Damage caused by Aircraft to Third Parties, (General Risks Convention). The Convention replaces in large measure the Rome Convention, 1952 and applies to damage to third parties which occurs in the territory of each state party caused by an aircraft in flight on an international flight.

This is an appeal to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu action against this injustice and to please ensure compensation payment. Air Blue, JS Air and Sunway should be instructed to compensate the victims’ legal heirs in accordance with the provisions of Civil Aviation Rules, 1994, Montréal Convention, 1999 and the Rome Convention, 1952. Further, an independent judicial commission may please be constituted to ascertain the cause of Airblue Flight ED 202 tragedy and other aircraft accidents.

This appeal is being made because the Supreme Court is custodian and upholder of the rights of citizens.

The Author is an Advocate of the High Court and holds a Master of Law (LL.M) degree.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2011.


M. Tauseef Barlas | 12 years ago | Reply where is chairman of air blue who used to make tall claims? he is also MNA. If he cannot give correct compenstation to victims family, just think how he treats his area people who give him vote.
Meekal Ahmed | 12 years ago | Reply I welcome this article and commend the author. Unfortunately no independent accident investigation authority will be set up. CAA and Ministry of Defense will never allow it. Why do we need an independent judicial commission and start from scratch, delaying matters further? From what we are told, there is an accident report (at least a preliminary one) and the read-out from the CVR and DFDR are available as well. It does not take a genius to figure out the Probable Cause of the accident. The CJP need only do one thing: order the immediate release of the accident report.
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