Trucker stuck in blood money bind

His rig was being towed by a truck that hit and killed a road worker - though he was not driving, he must pay half the Dh200,000 judgment.

August 4, 2010/ Mussafah /  Yogaselvan Sugumaran, 29, hold up the courts judgment against him. Sugumaran is trying to pay off a 100,000dh in blood money after spending 58 days in jail August 3, 2010. Fifteen months ago the truck he was driving broke down after being picked up by another driver they hit a Bangladeshi man. Sugumaran was held responsible along with the other man even though he was not driving when the accident happened. (Sammy Dallal / The National)

ABU DHABI // Yogaselvan Sugumaran has been stuck in the UAE for more than a year with no passport and no job, relying on friends and the Indian community to raise the funds to pay a Dh100,000 blood money debt his company would not pay from insurance.

He was riding in the cab of his broken-down truck as it was being towed by another truck that struck and killed a road worker last year. "I have no work," he said. "I just sit around all day." Mr Sugumaran, who is married with two children, receives money from the Indian embassy for food and housing and also lives off handouts from his friends. Along with efforts from the Kerala Social Centre, Mr Sugumaran's friends, mostly taxi drivers in the city, have appealed to their companies for donations. They hope to offer Dh50,000 to the victim's family.

"The collection is ongoing," said KB Murali, the president of the social centre. "At the moment, there are offers for half of the amount. We are confident that we will at least reach that figure." Mr Sugumaran, 29, who worked at Aims International, was driving a truck from Kuwait to Sharjah when it broke down. Instead of sending a recovery vehicle, the company sent another truck to illegally tow his.

On the way back to Abu Dhabi, the second truck struck and killed Nanda Bahadour Danji, a Nepalese road worker. The driver, Ali Zaghloul Rashwan, was found guilty of manslaughter and towing a mechanically unsound vehicle. So was Mr Sugumaran. Each was ordered to pay half the blood money of Dh200,000. After 58 days in jail, Mr Sugumaran was released with no passport, no job or salary and a debt of Dh100,000.

"I am not from here, I didn't know it was illegal to pull one truck with another," he said. "I don't know the laws." Mr Sugumaran said he was riding in the cab of his broken-down truck. Court records state the other defendant was driving the second truck. According to Khaled Mustafa, an independent lawyer, if the second truck was insured, the insurers should be paying the blood money. "The law states clearly that the insurance company should pay for any damage caused by the insured car," Mr Mustafa said.

"But the insurance company has to pay for the victim or family and then if they want to dispute they should file a lawsuit later against the transport company." However, the second truck had been subcontracted from Aims International to Abral Sharq Transport, making the question of which company should pay the blood money a murky one. In June, the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi ruled that a subcontractor was responsible during the accidental death of a construction worker, based on the contract both companies had signed.

However, in a case in March, it ordered both the employing company and a subcontractor to pay blood money to the family of a worker in Sharjah who died on the job. The two apparently contradictory cases mean there is no clear precedent. Aims International had told the embassy that it would pay the blood money, but has not, according to the Indian embassy. And the subcontracter, Abral Sharq, has not replied to the embassy's inquiries.

A spokesman for the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi said an official at the Indian embassy in Kuwait said Aims had said its insurance would cover the blood money, but "it turned out to be untrue". "The accident was on the job," said the spokesman. "The employer is duty-bound to cover these costs." He said the embassy has also written to Abral Sharq Transport's offices in Sharjah, but has yet to receive a response.

Neither Aims International nor Abral Sharq Transport could be reached for comment.

* With additional reporting by Hassan Hassan