Bill on higher air crash payout sent to Cabinet

  • Montreal Convention
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jun 12, 2018-

The Tourism Ministry has submitted a draft bill on Nepal’s accession to the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) to the Cabinet seeking its approval in principle so that it can be tabled in Parliament.

MC99 stipulates higher compensation for accidents involving international flights than that prescribed by the Warsaw Convention. However, clarity on whether its provisions would also apply to domestic carriage within Nepal has been awaited.

MC99, formally the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, is a multilateral treaty adopted by a diplomatic meeting of International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) member states in 1999.

MC99 states, “The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

Nepal has not signed the convention, although the process was initiated in 2010. The crash of Dhaka-based US-Bangla Airlines Flight 211 at Tribhuvan International Airport in March came as an eye-opener. The delay in signing MC99 has prevented the families of the victims from receiving a reasonable payout. Neither Nepal nor Bangladesh has signed the convention.

“After the bill is tabled in Parliament, there will be a number of debates before it takes final shape,” said Pramod Nepal, under-secretary at the ministry. “We expect the process to be completed in three months if Parliament gives it high priority. After the accession is passed by Parliament, the Nepal government will deposit the ratification instrument with Icao in Montreal, Canada.”

The convention imposes a minimum liability of nearly $113,000 Special Drawing Rights, equivalent to $169,000, for each passenger. This works out to approximately Rs17 million at current exchange rates, unless the airline proves that such damage was due not to its negligence or other wrongful act or omission.

Currently, Nepali airlines are governed by the Warsaw Convention drafted in 1929. The pact capped damages for injury or death at $8,300 per passenger. This was replaced by The Hague Protocol, a treaty signed on September 28, 1955 in The Hague, which amended the Warsaw Convention. The limit prescribed by the amendment is $20,000 per passenger.

Currently, Nepali airlines operating on international routes provide a minimum of Rs2 million as compensation in case of death of a passenger. However, the compensation amount depends on the insurance policy of the particular airline.

However, no decision has been made on domestic legislation to reflect the principles of MC99. Currently, authorities are considering ratifying MC99 with the current debate focusing on whether the provisions should also apply to domestic carriage where the current liability limits are significantly lower than international standards.

Discussions are continuing whether the provisions should also apply to domestic carriage. It will depend on the government’s decision. If the government deems it necessary, it will be applied uniformly to both domestic and international carriers of Nepal. If not, a separate piece of legislation will be needed to reflect the principles of the Montreal Convention.

Nepali domestic airlines have been opposing the government’s move to fix a uniform liability amount equal to international airlines.

Published: 12-06-2018 09:08

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