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January 28, 2000
Flight 814 passengers divided over damage suit
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
C M Katyal, the father of Rupin Katyal who was killed by the hijackers of IC-814, has said that he would not sue the Indian Airlines.
"What would I do with the money? Will a couple of crores bring my son to life?" he asked.
Katyal's statement follows the news that some passengers had decided to file a Rs 1 billion suit against the Indian Airlines and some security agencies for the trauma they underwent.
There is a sharp division amongst the passengers who were held hostages by five hijackers while travelling from Kathmandu to New Delhi on December 24 on whether to sue.
"We are totally opposed to the move. The Government of India did its best to ensure the safe return of the passengers as promised by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I think some people have now become greedy,'' Dr Sanjeev Chibber, a relative of a passenger, told rediff.com.
Dr Chibber had organised a demonstration of relatives to impress upon the government the need to get the hostages released.
"I am speaking for at least 25 people and four families. Nowhere in the world has any passenger ever been paid damages for hijacking," he said.
He defended his actions during the traumatic days. He said he had merely organised a dissent. "I am a better patriot than others. But the situation at that time demanded that we should tell the government what the relatives felt about the entire episode. We wanted the government to ensure the safety of all the passengers," he said.
But those filing the suit claim that Chibber has suddenly changed colours. "When the whole thing of compensation began he was very much party to it. On January 1, 2000 when we were on thanksgiving trip to various religious places, one woman journalist of a leading national daily started this talk of compensation. She asked why we should not file for compensation against the Indian Airlines and the bureau of civil aviation for security. Then we were not in a frame of mind to think comprehensively and arrive at some decision.
"Later we met over lunch and discussed the matter and thought that we must be compensated. We found a lawyer who agreed not to charge us anything for the suit," said one of the passengers.
"This is not the right thing to do. If at all, they should file the suit against the government of Nepal," felt Ramesh, another passenger of IC-814.
According to some passengers, choosing the advocate was left entirely to the lady journalist. Amitabh Sen, the lawyer in question, for his part, refused comment on the issue.
"The only thing that I can tell you is that it is a privileged conversation between client and advocate," he said.
Sources said that the passengers were still looking for an advocate who could represent them in court. But they have not ruled out engaging the services of Sen's company.
Rajinder Singh, resident of Vishnu Garden who was quoted by a leading national daily about filing for compensation, denied that he had ever mentioned a figure to the reporter concerned, or he had told him that the passengers would seek compensation from the court.
"I did speak to the reporter but I did not say all those things which have been attributed to me. I am happy that I have returned home. I do not want any money," he said.
"We are not greedy. All we want is that the government step up security at all airports so that no plane gets hijacked in future," said Singh.
He denied the role of the lady journalist in the matter. "She may have started the topic but we did talk amongst ourselves and decided that something should be done about security lapses," he said.
Another passenger who was also quoted in the paper said he had not mentioned any figure.
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