Crash victims' kin to hire foreign lawyers

The relatives of the Mangalore air crash victims have resolved to hire an international law firm following the undue delay in settling cases by Mulla and Mulla, the law firm designated by Air India for the purpose.

Addressing the victims’ relatives on Sunday, President of Mangalore Air Crash Victims’ Family Association Mohammed Beary said the legal heirs/family members of the deceased passengers were unhappy with the undue delay in releasing the final compensation payment and the huge difference in the final settlement.

Quoting the victims, he described as ‘not fair’ the ‘bargaining’ tactics used by the advocates of Mulla and Mulla.

“A person’s life cannot be equated with money,” he said and added that nearly 125 of the 158 passengers who died were poor. “Just because there was no other mode of transport, they were travelling by the ill-fated flight,” he said.

The association was not criticising the advocates appointed by Air India, he said, adding that the fight was for the victims’ right.

“Though the association had decided to approach international lawyers well-versed with such cases, way back in June 2010, the idea was dropped after H D Nanavathi (head of  Mulla and Mulla) promised that he would ensure that the quantum of relief would be increased,” he said. The association was now forced to approach international lawyers as the firm had failed to keep its promises, he added.

Legal advisor for the Association  Varadaraj Kayyangal said though the victims’ relatives were supposed to get approximately Rs 76 lakh as compensation as per the Montreal Convention, the family members here should get much more as it has already been established that the air crash was due to pilot error, which amounts to negligence.

Also, the case can be filed only in Dubai or India (the flight route), as the pilot error has been established.

“If it was an aircraft error, then the case could have been registered anywhere in the world, including the US,” he said.

Varadaraj also pointed out that as per rules, Air India is supposed to settle the claims within two years. It is already 10 months since the aircraft crashed.

Lawyer’s promise

Soon after the meeting, the families met Stephen Ericson, an advocate from Stockholm, Sweden, who is well-versed in handling air crash cases.

He was in Mangalore on the request of the association.

He assured the families that he would not charge fees for compensation amount less than Rs 57 lakh (in case of infants) and Rs 67 lakh (in case of women).

“It means the families would get a higher compensation amount as against the amount offered by Mulla and Mulla, which is less than Rs 30 lakh in several cases,” association Treasurer Abdul Razzaq said.

Beary said the association and the advocates’ firm would hold discussions with a London-based insurance firm.

“If needed, we will file a case in Dubai court,” he said.

Survivors too left in the lurch

Two survivors Pradeep and Joel too had come for the meeting. They said though they were assured of jobs by the Air India CMD soon after the crash, they have not heard from Air India till date. Ashraf, speaking for his brother Umer Farooq (another survivor), said his brother feels that it would have been better if he had died in the air crash.
“Living after the crash, without a job is hell,” he said.

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