The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to pay Rs 55 lakh as compensation to an Indian Air Force pilot who was injured in a MiG-21 crash in 2005. While the government will pay Rs 5 lakh, the state-run aeronautics firm will have to shell out Rs 50 lakh to Wing Commander Sanjeet Singh Kaila within four weeks, reported PTI.
The bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Deepa Sharma said Kaila was exposed to “unreasonable risk” because of the manufacturing defect of the fighter jet that had led to the crash. The court was hearing a petition filed by Kaila, who is now a wing commander in Nashik. He had sought compensation for “violation of his fundamental right to life, especially the right to work in a safe environment”.
Apart from compensation, Kaila had also demanded a formal apology and asked the court to issue guidelines to the manufacturing company to avoid such incidents in the future. He had moved the High Court in 2013.
This is the first time that a crash survivor has asked for redressal from the government, according to PTI. The Russian fighter jets are infamous for inherent defects and the poor workmanship at HAL’s facilities only makes things worse. The fight jet has often been referred to as the “Flying Coffin”.
Kaila met with the accident, which left him with cervicalgia and disc bulges of the vertebrae, during a regular exercise on January 4, 2005. After thorough medical examination, he was deemed unfit for flying and even day-to-day activities.
In his petition Kaila recounts the incident and gives a vivid description of what had happened. Kaila said he started experiencing a drift to the left minutes after take-off. Simultaneously, there was a fire at the rear end of the jet. “Assessing the emergency, the petitioner promptly carried out all the essential directives and got the tyres of the aircraft down for a landing,” he said in this plea. “Despite a near-complete engine/control failure and at grave risk to his own life, the petitioner continued to stay put in an almost uncontrollable aircraft so as to steer it away to safety from a nearby village...To save human life, the petitioner ejected only seconds before the crash of the aircraft.”