|The appeal filed by the AAI had no merits, says Supreme Court|
“AAI’s duty to maintain the escalator properly”
“No staff at escalator is deficiency in service”
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an award passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission directing the Airports Authority of India to pay 2.5 lakh French francs (approximately Rs.38 lakh including interest) as compensation to the parents of a minor girl who was trapped and killed in the escalator at Delhi airport in 1999.
Observing that the appeal filed by the AAI had no merits, a Bench of Justice B. N. Agrawal and Justice G. S. Singhvi dismissed it after hearing counsel Rachna Joshi for the AAI and senior counsel L. Nageswara Rao and Subramonium Prasad for Otis Elevator Company.
Seven-year-old Jyotsna Jethani, who had come to India from Dubai on December 13, 1999, to attend her uncle’s wedding, died soon after her arrival at the airport when she was trapped in the escalator which could not be switched off in time.
The Commission in August 2004 had directed the AAI to pay 2.5 lakh French Franc with 10 per cent interest per annum from January 1, 2000, till the date of payment.
The Commission had held that it was AAI’s duty to maintain the escalator in proper condition and it was the duty of the officers concerned to be more careful at the time of inspecting such installations and the inspection should not be casual or routine. “Not to keep any staff at the escalator to switch it off in case of a calamity by itself is deficiency in service,” it held. In its appeal against this order, the AAI contended that the Commission had exceeded its jurisdiction in entertaining a complaint claiming compensation for loss suffered in an accident when the subject matter was sub judice before a criminal court.
It said the Commission had failed to consider the fact that the elevator company could not be absolved of its liability. On behalf of Otis Elevator it was contended that on the date of the accident there was no subsisting contract between the AAI and the company.
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