National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Ram Surat Maurya (Presiding Member) addressed a matter wherein the date of issue of the Risk Confirmation Letter was in a serious dispute leading to Insurance Broker’s fraudulent act.
The complainant had a factory, and the OP was engaged in the business of providing insurance services. Further, the complainant obtained standard Fire and Special Peril Policy from the OP, for a period of 10-2-2005 to 9-2-2006 for its buildings, furniture, fixtures, fittings and electrical installation, Plant and Machinery, machinery parts, Dies & moulds and stock for a sum of Rs 23 crores. The said policy was renewed.
In February 2008, the complainant invited offers from Insurances brokers for renewal of the above-said policy. It was stated that the Western Regional Office of the OP accepted the proposal form and issued risk confirmation for fire and allied perils insurance policy and Satyan Insurance Broker sent a Risk Confirmation letter to the complainant on 18-2-2008.
On 17-2-2008, a major fire occurred at the factory premises of the complainant causing extensive loss to the buildings, plant & machineries, furniture and stock etc. The complainant informed the insurer about the said incident and the insured appointed a surveyor and loss adjuster, and further the surveyor declined to proceed in the absence of the insurance policy.
The complainant received a letter (bearing the date 18-02-2008) on 28-02-2008 from the Insurer, stating therein that the consideration received for covering the risk was less than the offer given by them. Hence, they were not in a position to cover the risk as requested.
The Insurer, vide dated 13-03-2008, denied issuance of Risk Confirmation on 14-02-2008.
The complainant then gave a legal notice, to the Insurer for either making payment of Rs 2.70 crores within seven days or to refer the dispute to an Arbitrator. The Insurer, vide reply declined to refer the dispute to an Arbitrator or to pay.
Further, the complainant filed an arbitration application in the Bombay High Court which was ultimately rejected on the ground that in the absence of an arbitration agreement between the parties, the application was not maintainable. Then the present complaint was filed.
What is the serious dispute about?
The dispute between the parties was with regard to the date of issue of Risk Confirmation letter and the letter of the Insurer, declining to issue policy on the ground that the premium was deficient.
Analysis and Discussion
The Commission stated that two circumstances clearly proved the fraudulent act of Satyan Insurance Broker, firstly cheque of Rs 6,825 was bearing a date of 13-02-2008. The complainant issued his cheque of Rs 23,891 on 13-02-2008. Had Satyan Insurance Broker informed the complainant that an insurance premium of Rs 30,176 was payable then the complainant instead of issuing a cheque of Rs 23,891 would have issued the cheque of the full amount. Secondly, it was not a normal conduct that any insurance agent would give a premium of a client from his account.
Section 19 of Contract Act, 1872, provides that when the consent of an agreement is caused by coercion, fraud, or misrepresentation, the agreement is voidable at the option of the party whose consent is so caused.
In Supreme Court’s decision of Reliance Life Insurance Company v. Rekhaben Nareshbhai Rathod, (2019) 6 SCC 175 and New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Satpal Singh Muchal, (2009) 12 SCC 673, it was held that a contract insurance is a contract of uberrima fide and non-disclosure of material fact, vitiates the insurance policy.
Therefore, no illegality in not issuing the insurance policy by the Insurer as the Risk Confirmation letter was obtained on concealment of material facts relating to the fire incident.
Coram concluded by stating that,
“If Risk Confirmation letter had been issued on 14.02.2008, the complainant would not have committed two days delay in informing the Insurer in respect of fire incident. Appointment of the surveyor on 20.02.2008 was an innocent mistake, the complainant cannot get any benefit of it.”
In view of the above, no merit was found in the complaint and it was dismissed. [Tainwala Personal Care Products (P) Ltd. v. Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Co. Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine NCDRC 11, decided on 25-1-2022]
Advocates before the Commission:
For the Complainant: Ms. Fareshte Sethna, Mr. Munindra Dvivedi, Ms. Divya Bhalla, Ms. Aathira Pilllai, Advocates
For the OP: Mr. S.M. Tripathi, Advocate and Ms. Deepa Chacko, Advocate