KDC decision to adjudicate case upheld

Kathmandu, March 11

Patan High Court has ruled that Kathmandu District Court has the jurisdiction to adjudicate the compensation case filed by victims of US-Bangla Air crash that killed 51 passengers, including 22 Nepalis on 12 March 2018.

The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Judge Nahakul Subedi and Judge Tek Prasad Dhungana in response to a petition filed by the airlines company challenging KDC’s order to accept its jurisdicition in the case. Now the KDC will have to look into the merits of the case.

Patan High Court bench observed that as per Article 151 of the constitution,  district courts had the power to act as court of first instance in all disputes except otherwise provisioned in the federal laws and in this case the same article applied. The court also cited Section 7 (1) of the Judicial Administration Act that gave district courts the power to act as first instance court in their respective districts.

The bench added that although US-Bangla Airlines Company had been registered in Bangladesh, the company had entered into multiple agreements with Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to operate flights from Dhaka to Kathmandu.

It observed that although Nepali victims had two-way air tickets for their travel from Dhaka-Kathmandu-Dhaka, the accident happened in Kathmandu while the plane was trying to land at Tribhuvan International Airport and the entire investigation was carried out as per Nepal laws.

It added that the dispute over compensation was not an issue to be governed by public international law, as the dispute was between   the nationals of two sovereign countries and not between the two sovereign countries. The court observed that the compensation issue should be resolved as per private international law as provisioned in Nepal’s civil code, torts law, international treaty laws that Nepal is a party to and  judicial practices and norms.

Victims’ lawyer Amrit Kharel said the airlines, insurer and reinsurer could not challenge the jurisdiction issue in the Supreme Court now as the existing laws stipulated that the decision of a high court would be final on jurisdiction issues.

Kharel said Patan High Court’s order had set a new precedent whereby a Nepali victim could file case in Nepal’s court even if the plane crashed in a foreign country. Now a foreigner can file compensation case in Nepal’s court even if the plane crashes in some other country, he added.

He said the airlines company settled cases with Bangladeshi victims providing them five million US dollars as the company had insured the passengers for that amount, but Nepali families of the seven victims claimed more compensation as pilot’s negligence was the cause of the accident.

Each family of the seven victims claimed Rs 300 million in damages. “All these victims were doctors and their families have claimed compensation calculating the average amount they could have earned during their lifetime,” Kharel said.