C. Viswanath, Presiding Member1. The present Appeal, under Section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has been filedby the Appellant against the order dated 3.8.2015 of the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Circuit Bench at Aurangabad (hereinafter referred to as “the State Commission”) in CC. 5. 2014.2. The Complainant/Appellant obtained “Standard Fire and Special Perils” Insurance Policies for stocks of cotton etc. and plant and machinery. Complainant’s factory met with a fire incident on 29.3.2009 at about 9.30 am. Huge stock of the cotton was damaged in the accident. The accident was reported to the Police and an FIR No. 3/2009 was registered. The Complainant stated that he informed the Opposite Party/Insurance Company regarding the loss and thereafter submitted all the relevant documents as sought for by the Surveyor, Mr. J.C. Bhansali. The Surveyor assessed the loss at Rs. 32,92,525 only, though the total loss suffered was to the tune of Rs. 99,45,286. The Opposite Party also appointed M/s. Charter House Detective Services to ascertain the actual loss, who submitted their investigation report. Police after investigation found that the fire was accidental. The Opposite Party, on 22.3.2012, offered the Complainant a settlement of Rs. 39,72,829. As a part of the settlement, the Complainant was made to execute an indemnity bond in favour of the Opposite Party. As per the Complainant, he was facing financial difficulties and therefore accepted the settlement offered by the Opposite Party and accordingly executed an Indemnity bond and a Discharge Voucher in the name of the Opposite Party. The Complainant stated that he had accepted the settlement under protest. Alleging deficiency in service by the Opposite Party, he filed Complaint before the State Commission with the following prayer:“1. It is prayed that, the respondent be directed to pay the complainant an amount of Rs. 59,72,457 being the amount due towards respondent of claim.2. It is prayed that, the complainant is entitled to claim interest at the rate of 15% from the date of the fire/incident i.e. 29.3.2009.3. It is prayed that, the complainant is entitled to compensation of Rs. 10.00 lac or such other higher amount as may found fit and proper towards harassment and mental agony.4. The cost of the complaint may kindly be awarded to the complainant.”3. The Complaint was contested by the Respondent/Opposite Party. Though the Surveyor could not ascertain the cause of fire, assessment was carried out without prejudice and subject to findings of CID inquiry/police investigations. The District Collector, Aurangabad appointed a Committee to go into the cause of fire and initiated investigation. Since it was taking a long time, it was decided to settle the claim as per the assessment made by the Surveyor, subject to the Complainant executing an indemnity bond in favour of the Opposite Party. The Complainant was paid an amount of Rs. 39,72,829 towards full and final settlement of the claim on 22.3.2012, after signing the Discharge Voucher and executing an Indemnity Bond. The Opposite Party stated that the Complainant having accepted the full and final settlement was barred from raising a dispute. The Consumer Complaint was not maintainable as it was falsely filed after a lapse of more than 2 years.4. The State Commission after hearing both the Parties and perusing the record, directed as follows:“1. Consumer complaint No. 05/14 is dismissed.2. Considering peculiar facts of the case we direct the parties to bear their own cost3. Copies of the judgment be supplied to both the parties”5. Aggrieved by the State Commission’s order dated 3.8.2015, the Appellant/Complainant preferred the present Appeal before this Commission.6. Heard the Learned Counsels for the Parties and carefully perused the record. It is an admitted fact that the Appellant obtained “Standard Fire and Special Perils” Insurance Policies from the Respondent/Insurance company and on 29.3.2009, the Appellant’s factory met with a fire incident, which was reported to the Police and the Insurance Company. Stock of cotton and other material was damaged and the Appellant filed a claim with the Respondent for the loss. The Appellant thereafter submitted documents to the Surveyor, who assessed the loss at Rs. 32,92,525. As per the Appellant, the total loss suffered by him was to the tune of Rs. 99,45,286, though in the Complaint he prayed for Rs. 59,72,457. Since investigation regarding the cause of fire was pending, the Respondent offered the Appellant a settlement of Rs. 39,72,829. As a part of the settlement, the Appellant was made to execute an indemnity bond in favour of the Respondent. The Appellant also signed Discharge Vouchers in favour of the Insurance Company. Thereafter, the Appellant filed a Complaint before the State Commission and alleged deficiency in service by the Opposite Party. The Complaint was filed on 28.2.2014 after receiving amount of Rs. 39,72,829 on 22.3.2012. The State Commission therefore held that the Complaint was not barred by limitation. The main issue involved was whether the Complainant received Rs. 39,72,829 towards full and final settlement or under protest pending investigation.7. Learned Counsel for the Appellant stated that the Appellant was told by the Respondent that the settlement money would not be given unless the Discharge Voucher was signed. As per the Counsel for the Appellant, the Discharge Voucher, therefore, was obtained by the Respondent through means of coercion and undue influence. He further stated that the Appellant had executed an Indemnity bond in favour of the Respondent, thereby agreeing to indemnify the Respondent in case of an adverse finding against the Appellant. According to him, this itself showed that the Settlement was not full and final but was subject to the final result of the Insurance Company’s investigation into the cause of the fire.8. Learned Counsel for the Respondent submitted that the State Commission had rightly dismissed the Complaint filed by the Appellant. He stated that the amount paid to the Complainants was towards full and final settlement of his claim and, therefore, the Complainant is estopped by law from filing the present Complaint. He specifically denied the Complainant’s allegation that the Discharge Voucher signed by him was through coercion or undue influence.9. Both the Counsels have cited several judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as this Commission in support of their arguments. In several insurance claim cases arising under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, it has held that if a Complainant satisfies the Consumer Forum that Discharge Vouchers were obtained by fraud, coercion, undue influence etc., they should be ignored, but if they were found to be voluntary, the Complainant will be bound by it resulting in rejection of the Complaint.10. It is settled law that mere signing of Discharge Voucher will not bar the Complainant/Claimant from raising a dispute before this Commission. The only question to be decided is whether the Discharge Voucher was signed under undue influence or coercion. The burden of proof, however, is on the Complainant to satisfy this Commission that the Discharge Voucher was signed under undue influence or coercion.11. Learned Counsel for the Respondent stated that it was made clear to the Complainant that unless the Discharge Voucher was signed, payment would not be released and therefore, the Discharge Voucher was signed under coercion. The Complainant, however, was unable to furnish any evidence to substantiate this plea. The conduct of the insured becomes relevant on the facts of each case to ascertain whether the discharge voucher in full and final settlement was given voluntarily or there was coercion or under influence on the Complainant. The only evidence provided were the letters of protest sent after signing the Discharge Voucher, which do not prove undue influence or coercion on the Appellant. Moreover the Complaint was filed few days short of two years after receiving the settlement amount, but not any earlier. No evidence has been filed to show coercion or undue influence on the Complainan
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t to enter into a settlement. Despite pendency of Investigation into the cause of fire, as it was taking some time, the Opposite Party offered settlement based on the assessment report of the Surveyor. Even though the Complaint was deemed as not barred by limitation, the conduct of the Appellant showed that the plea of coercion was taken as an afterthought. If at all the Complainant had an objection to the nature of the settlement, he should have recorded the same while signing the settlement. Regarding the contention of undue influence and coercion, the State Commission held that “in the absence of any specific contention and evidence that it was under any undue pressure, coercion or fraud such bare contention of the complainant cannot be accepted”.12. In view of foregoing discussion, I find no infirmity in the impugned order of the State Commission. The present Appeal is dismissed.Appeal dismissed.