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Supreme Order ratifies compensation against Airport Authorities of India

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  • Rajesh Yadav
    In an important judgment, the Supreme Court of India has ratified the order of the National Consumer Commission that had awarded an overall sum of Rs. 38.04
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2008
      In an important judgment, the Supreme Court of India has ratified
      the order of the National Consumer Commission that had awarded an
      overall sum of Rs. 38.04 lakhs (including interest) compensation
      against the Airports Authority of India for dereliction leading to
      the death of a child. In a horrific incident on December 13, 1999, a
      family arriving at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport saw
      their 7 year old daughter getting sucked into the gap at the end of
      the escalator and getting crushed to death. It was an incident that
      sparked a lot of outrage, more so, because this was an incident that
      could have been avoided.

      The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an order of the national
      consumer commission awarding Rs 38.04 lakh compensation to the
      mother of a seven-year-old girl who died after she was sucked into
      an escalator at Delhi's international airport in December 1999. The
      order marked a stinging rebuke to the Airports Authority of India
      which, despite strong evidence pointing to its callousness in not
      maintaining the escalator, had sought to dispute the compensation
      granted to Geeta Jethani.
      While awarding the compensation, the commission had criticized the
      cussed attitude of AAI in questioning the compensation for a death
      which clearly resulted from its apathy, saying the case pointed to
      the extent "we have developed the tendency to deny the obvious, in
      litigation". "Except admitting the trapping of a young child in the
      escalator, the AAI has tried to dispute its liability and deficiency
      in service. We do not know when we will change our jurisprudence
      which encourages such attitude of denials and protracts litigation
      and increases burden on adjudicating forums/courts," Justice M B
      Shah, chairman of the commission, had said in his verdict.

      The whole incident was extremely shocking when it happened. From my
      memory, investigation seemed to show that the escalator was not
      being maintained properly, and in addition, there was no immediate
      button to stop the escalator. It seems a default now that every
      escalator has a Red stop button that will immediately stop the
      escalator, but such was not the case at that point of time. It was
      only after that incident was there increased focus on making sure
      that the escalator can stop in an emergency.
      The other major problem that becomes evident from this case is that
      nature of Government enterprises. There is an incredible amount of
      lethargy, work-saving, and passing the buck that happens. This very
      rarely gets pointed out since these are after all Government
      enterprises, but one hopes that more judgments like these will
      ensure that even Government run enterprises are responsible for
      ensuring safety at their premises and for ensuring that customer
      service is their motto. This is hopeful thinking, but one rarely
      knows whether such an attitude change could happen.
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