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Sep 17, 2010 at 03:36pm IST

Mangalore crash: Victims' income to decide payout

New Delhi: Four months after country’s worst aviation disaster in a decade that killed 158 people onboard, the families of the victims of Air India Express 812 find themselves in the midst of a battle for compensation.

Crash victims allege Air India and the Reliance-led insurance consortium are putting pressure on victims to accept a settlement based on the income of the deceased. That means the insurance companies have to pay only a little amount as most families are from low-income groups.

Hassanabba lost his wife and three children, all non-earning members, in the fatal crash. He has been asked to furnish an income certificate. "They are telling me to settle for Rs 5 or 10 lakh, but Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had promised we would get Rs 76 lakh," he said.

Here is why the kin say Air India is legally in the wrong. International air accidents are governed by the Montreal Convention, to which India is party. That convention stipulates that all passengers who die in an air disaster should be given Rs 70 lakh in compensation.

Air India interprets the convention differently. Lawyers for the airline and the insurance consortium told CNN-IBN that Rs 70 lakh is not minimum compensation. The other spin is that the money is to compensate 'loss of livelihood' and not for the 'loss of lives'.

H D Nanavati of Mulla & Mulla, a legal firm representing Air India, said: "It says damages, you know what damages means."

But for people whose hopes and dreams have crashed these legal explanations offer no succor. They are asking whether life should come with different price tags? Will Praful keep his promise to the families?

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