SC nod to disbursal of Rs 50,000 to widow of man who died due to negligence of AAI

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New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) The Supreme Court has given its nod for disbursal of Rs 50,000 deposited in its 'suitors fund' by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the widow of a man who had died of cardiac arrest owing to negligence in shifting him to the nearest hospital in Kolkata in 2012.

The AAI, under provisions of the Consumer Protection Act has deposited Rs 50,000 with the top court while filing an appeal against the October 7, 2015 order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) which had held its negligence or deficiency in shifting the patient to the nearby hospital and directed payment of Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the widow.

Under the Consumer Protection Act, if an appeal is preferred against an order of the NCDRC by a person who is required to pay any compensation, it would be entertained by the top court only if that person has deposited fifty per cent of that amount or Rs 50,000, whichever is less.

The amount is deposited in the 'suitors fund' of the top court and under the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, if the appeal is allowed by the court, then the amount deposited by the appellant would be refunded without interest but if it is dismissed, the amount will be allowed to be withdrawn by the other party or disbursed according to the directions of the court.

A bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi on Friday allowed disbursal of Rs 50,000 to the widow after she moved an application on the ground that the appeal filed by the AAI had been dismissed by the court on November 29, 2019.

Advocate Dushyant Parashar, appearing for the widow, contended that since the top court had upheld the order of the NCDRC that the AAI was negligent in shifting the man who had suffered cardiac arrest to the nearest hospital in Kolkata and dismissed the appeal, the amount deposited in suitors fund shall be disbursed to her.

On November 29, 2019, a top court bench headed by Justice M M Shantanagoudar had said, 'We find from the records that the Airports Authority of India was negligent in not shifting the patient to the hospital for treatment immediately....' While refusing to interfere with the NCDRC order, it had noted that the man, who was travelling from Agartala to Delhi in a private airline flight, was deplaned at 12 noon, after he complained of chest pain at Kolkata airport and was not shifted to the nearest hospital at least after 2.30pm.

'The ambulance was called only at 4.32 pm. No information is forthcoming by the Airports Authority of India as to why the ambulance was not immediately called for shifting the patient/deceased to the hospital. The deceased died at about 5.30 am on the next day in the hospital because of cardiac arrest,' the bench had noted.

It had also noted that the NCDRC on facts has concluded that the AAI is negligent to a certain extent and directed it to pay a sum of Rs 10 lakh as compensation along with interest of nine per cent per annum from the date of filing of the complaint and quantified the cost of litigation at Rs 20,000.

It had said, “Having regard to the entire material on record, and under the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we decline to interfere in the impugned judgment. We also decline to enhance the compensation as prayed for by the claimant.' The deceased who leaves behind wife and three dependent children was travelling on November 24, 2012 and during the flight he had claimed of chest pain.

The widow of the deceased has claimed compensation alleging negligence and deficiency on the part of the private airline as well as the AAI and moved the NCDRC.

The private airline had claimed before the NCDRC that it had fulfilled its obligations cast upon it by applicable laws, rules and regulations and the demise of the deceased was not as a consequence of any act/omission attributable to it.

The AAI has also opposed the claim of the widow and said that it owed no obligation or duty towards the deceased and it provides medical assistance free of cost on request of airlines concerned and therefore, the complainant cannot be said to be consumer of the AAI.

After considering the facts of the case, the NCDRC had held that there was no deficiency on the part of private airline but said that the staff of AAI was 'clearly negligent and deficient in rendering services to him' and ordered it to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the widow. PTI MNL SMN