The Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill 2008 stands amended by the
Parliament after it was passed by the Rajya Sabha. It now paves the way
for India to accede to the Montreal Convention, 1999. The Bill was
passed by the Lok Sabha on 30th April, 2008.
Following is the text of the speech of Shri Praful Patel, Minister for Civil Aviation for consideration and passing of the Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill, 2008 in the Rajya Sabha:-
â€˜Hon'ble Speaker Sir and Members of Parliament. I place before you for consideration and passing of the Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill 2008. As you are all aware, during the last decade there have been significant developments in the civil aviation sector bringing India to the core of the international civil aviation scenario. We have now infact become a trendsetter due to our size and impressive growth rates. To further place India in the ranks of global leaders, I propose this legislation which will facilitate higher compensation and prevent Indian passengers from discrimination.
On the proposal for amendment of the Act, I would like to mention that there is an international legal regime governing the liability of air carriers for injury or death of passengers, for destruction or loss of or damage to baggage and cargo, and losses caused by delay in international carriage of passengers , baggage and cargo. This regime is set out in a number of international instruments. However, India has so far ratified only two instruments, namely the Warsaw Convention 1929, and the Warsaw Convention as amended by The Hague Protocol 1955 and the same has been given effect to by the Carriage by Air Act 1972.
The various instruments adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation failed to receive the kind of universal acceptance as parent Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol had received. As a result a situation arose where several different combinations of liability regimes came into existence defying the much desired uniformity and unification of international law in this field. The ICAO then embarked upon serious initiative for a socio economic study of the levels of compensation and finally the Montreal Convention 1999 was adopted for the unification of certain rules for international carriage by air which aims to achieve the dual purpose of modernizing as well as consolidating the various instruments comprising the Warsaw System.
The Montreal Convention has already been ratified by 86 countries, out of which 25 have direct air links with India, including routes having high traffic density such as UK, USA, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Austria, France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy. In such a situation, non accession of the Convention by India may give rise to a situation involving serious discrimination between the passengers of the same flight with regard to compensation. It is therefore necessary to accede to the Convention.
In brief, the Convention seeks to increase the compensation levels for international passengers in the event of death or body injury and damage and delay to the passenger baggage and cargo. While the compensation for death or bodily injury is proposed to be increased 7 times from the existing levels of 20000 USD approximately to 140000 USD approximately, the compensation for damage to the checked baggage is to increase from 20 USD per kg approximately to 1400 USD per passenger. The compensation for damage to cargo is proposed to be increased from 20 USD per kg approximately to 24 USD per kg.
Even today where Indian carriers are flying to States who have acceded the Convention, they have to insure for the liability limits set out in the Montreal Convention, even though India has not acceded to the Convention. If India does not adopt the Convention, the passengers originating and terminating their journey in India (who are mostly Indian nationals) would be deprived of the benefits of enhanced liability.
The Warsaw System allows at present four choices of jurisdiction for filing of a claim by the passenger namely, place of issue of ticket, principle place of business of the carrier, the place of destination of the passenger and the place of domicile of the carrier. Through the Montreal Convention a fifth jurisdiction is added which is the place of domicile of the passenger, provided the airline has a presence there. Therefore an Indian would be able to file claim in India even if the journey was undertaken outside India.
By amending certain provisions of the Carriage by Air Act, 1972 and to include the text of the Montreal Convention to the said Act as the Third Schedule, this would have the force of law in India in relation to any carriage by air to which those rules apply irrespective of the nationality of the aircraft performing the carriage.
In view of the foregoing, the Government has decided to accede to the Montreal Convention, 1999 and deposit the Instruments of Accession with ICAO. Before doing so, necessary legislative action is required in order to give effect to the provisions of the Convention in India. The rules contained in the First Schedule of the Act shall be applicable if the international carriage is between the Contracting Parties to the Warsaw Convention, those contained in the Second Schedule shall apply in respect of carriage between the Contracting Parties to the Warsaw Convention as amended by the Hague Protocol and the provisions in the Third Schedule shall be applicable for carriage between the States parties to the Montreal Convention, 1999.â€™
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