The Kathmandu Post, 04 May 2018
The convention imposes a minimum liability of nearly $113,000 Special Drawing Rights, equivalent to $169,000, for each passenger
Nepal has moved to ratify the Montreal Convention (MC99) which stipulates higher compensation for accidents involving international flights than that prescribed by the Warsaw Convention.
Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari recently said that the government would be tabling its accession to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air at the Federal Parliament’s budget session that is expected to begin on May 6.
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 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 amount of compensation. Neither Nepal nor Bangladesh has signed the convention.
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 the negligence or other wrongful act or omission by the carrier.
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.
On Thursday, a discussion was held on the convention that has been sent to the Law Ministry for its comments, said Pramod Nepal, under-secretary at the ministry. The Foreign and Finance ministries have given their go-ahead to the proposal.
“After the Law Ministry’s approval, it will be sent to the Cabinet before being tabled in Parliament.” The Law Ministry expects to give its approval within a week, he said. “After the accession is passed by Parliament, the Nepal government will submit the ratification instrument to Icao in Montreal, Canada,” he added.
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. 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.