Air accidents: Ratifying Montreal Convention  

Published: November 20, 2018 22:04:01 | Updated: November 23, 2018 22:12:26

That the government frequently fails to take timely actions has again been proved in the case of ratification of the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty that guarantees payment of higher compensation to air passengers. The failure had denied the families of the victims of the recent US-Bangla aircraft crash at the Kathmandu airport of handsome compensations. The deprivation was the outcome of proverbial sloth that is found stalking the country's administration all the time.

Though the government signed the Montreal Convention nearly two decades back, it is yet to ratify the convention through the adoption of a befitting piece of legislation. The Ministry of Civil Aviation reportedly finalised an aviation safety law in line with the provisions of the convention in question, but failed to get vetting from the relevant ministries. Such vetting is mandatory prior to sending any draft law to the cabinet for approval.

There is no denying that any amount of financial aid cannot compensate for the loss of life in accidents. Yet, such compensation is universally paid, in case of air accidents, by the relevant airlines to help the families of the victims, financially. Unfortunately, the failure to ratify the Montreal Convention has deprived the families of the victims of the Kathmandu air crash hugely.  What each of the victims' families has received as compensation from the insurer is equivalent to one-third of the amount given under the Montreal Convention. As Bangladesh is a signatory to the age-old Warsaw Convention, they have received the lesser amount in compensation.

Neighbouring India reportedly ratified the Montreal Convention in 2009 and, notably, it had amended the domestic aviation law so that victims of air tragedy happening within that country could also receive higher compensation. The lack of urgency demonstrated by the relevant authorities here in the matter of ratifying the latest convention, by any count, is an unpardonable lapse on their part. The government naturally would not pay compensation from its own coffer. Then, why should it be reluctant to do a job that would help the victims of air tragedy receive handsome compensations from the relevant international insurers engaged by individual airliner?

 It is not known whether the latest incident involving the US-Bangla aircraft has prompted the civil aviation ministry to expedite the process of early ratification of the Montreal Convention.  Understandably, the ratification would not be possible until a new parliament is constituted through the upcoming polls. Hopefully, the relevant ministry would take necessary initiative to secure necessary vetting to place the draft of the legal instrument before the cabinet and get the same adopted by parliament as early as possible.

It is unlikely that the government would pay from its own coffer to compensate for the lesser amounts the families of the victims of US-Bangla air tragedy received from the insurer. But it can surely help the victims of similar incidents claim higher amount of compensations in the future by ratifying the Montreal Convention with due urgency.   Necessary changes should also be made to the domestic aviation laws and rules to help the victims of any future air tragedy at home receive compensation equivalent to that allowed under the latest Convention.


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