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Your life in the sky is worth more now

The Govt will align domestic laws to a "passenger friendly" international treaty, reports Aloke Tikku.
None | By Aloke Tikku, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2007 03:30 AM IST

Indian life and baggage onboard international flights will get costlier.

The government on Thursday decided to align domestic laws to a "passenger friendly" international treaty that raises compensation limits for air passengers for the loss of life and baggage. The cabinet approved proposed amendments to the Carriage by Air Act 1972 that will extend coverage of the Montreal Convention 1999 to India as well.

This will raise the liability of carriers in case of loss of life to a minimum 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a mix of currency values established by the IMF. 100,000 SDR is equivalent to nearly Rs 66 lakh. This amount can go up if it is proved the airline was at fault.

The treaty also replaces the archaic system of compensating lost baggage by weight and sets a passenger limit of 1,000 SDR or Rs 66,000.

Domestic passengers too are likely to benefit. To what extent was, however, not immediately clear.

I&B Minister PR Dasmunsi said currently passengers whose journeys originate in the US or Britain — signatories to the treaty — are entitled to a much higher compensation than those whose journeys originate in India. "This, by and large, goes against the interests of Indian passengers," he said.

Experts said the difference in compensation for death could be as much as 10 times. It arises from the fact that India is still governed by the older international legal regime, referred to as the Warsaw System, which was aimed at restricting the liability of airlines.

"The Montreal Convention is more consumer-friendly and gives more protection to passengers," Sanat Kaul, who has represented India at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), told HT.

Sixty-four countries have ratified the convention that came into force three years ago; 21 of them have direct air links with India.

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