South Asia

Australian woman wins India compensation after 33 years

An Indian court has awarded $1m in compensation to an Australian woman, 33 years after she was paralysed in a fall at a hotel swimming pool in Delhi.

Susan Leigh Beer slipped on a dirty floor at the Akbar Hotel in May 1978, receiving crippling head injuries.

The Delhi High Court found the hotel guilty of negligence, rejecting its defence that Ms Beer was to blame.

Ms Beer expressed relief the court case was finally over. India has one of the slowest judicial systems in the world.

"It has been a frustrating, difficult and long struggle for all of us. Let us pray that will be the end of this nightmare," Ms Beer, now a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, told the The Times of India.

The newspaper reported that it was one of the highest compensation awards ever made in India.

Ms Beer, a member of the Queensland women's polo team, was 18 when she visited India on holiday with her parents and brother.

She slipped and fell, hitting her head as she jumped into the algae-covered shallow end of the pool at the state-run Akbar Hotel.

The High Court ruled that the India Tourism Development Corporation, which owned the hotel, had been negligent in not keeping the swimming pool floor clean.

It ordered the corporation to pay 50m rupees ($1.1m) in compensation to Ms Beer. The amount takes into account potential loss of earnings as a result of her injuries.

Legal gridlock

The length of time it has taken to reach a decision in the case points up a huge failing in India's legal system.

In some cases it can take a lifetime to deliver justice. The country has the biggest backlog of cases in the world.

Official figures show that tens of millions of cases are pending in the courts - some since 1950.

Lack of resources, too few judges and archaic laws are all advanced as reasons for the crisis. Experts say another reason is the poor quality of some judicial appointees.

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