w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n



M/s. HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Ltd. rep. by its Managing Director & Another v/s The Permanent Lok Adalat for Public Utility Services rep. by its Secretary, Kadapa & Another


Company & Directors' Information:- HDFC LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED [Active] CIN = L65110MH2000PLC128245

Company & Directors' Information:- HDFC STANDARD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED [Active] CIN = L99999MH2000PLC128245

Company & Directors' Information:- HDFC STANDARD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED [Active] CIN = U99999MH2000PLC128245

Company & Directors' Information:- STANDARD CORPORATION INDIA LIMITED [Active] CIN = U29211PB1999PLC022397

Company & Directors' Information:- I SERVICES INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U72900DL2003PTC118851

Company & Directors' Information:- S T SERVICES LTD [Active] CIN = L74140WB1989PLC047210

Company & Directors' Information:- M G F SERVICES LIMITED [Amalgamated] CIN = U65910DL1987PLC029599

Company & Directors' Information:- R S SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U65100DL1989PTC038061

Company & Directors' Information:- R S SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900DL1989PTC038061

Company & Directors' Information:- S J SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74140DL1988PTC034427

Company & Directors' Information:- O LIFE PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U52399PN2013PTC146147

Company & Directors' Information:- AMP E - SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51909MN2013PTC008361

Company & Directors' Information:- L M J SERVICES LTD [Active] CIN = L93000WB1983PLC035807

Company & Directors' Information:- G K SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U65990MH1994PTC078529

Company & Directors' Information:- B V SERVICES PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U74140WB1991PTC050946

Company & Directors' Information:- A P UTILITY SERVICES LIMITED [Active] CIN = U70101HR2003PLC052940

Company & Directors' Information:- E I C SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74899DL1985PTC022426

Company & Directors' Information:- A C SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74899DL1995PTC070774

Company & Directors' Information:- H S SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900KA2014PTC074321

Company & Directors' Information:- G V INDIA SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900DL2010PTC212026

Company & Directors' Information:- A TO Z SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999MH2007PTC168484

Company & Directors' Information:- O P T SERVICES INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U63013DL1996PTC083397

Company & Directors' Information:- P P SERVICES PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U70101WB1991PTC051423

Company & Directors' Information:- A P T SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Amalgamated] CIN = U29219TG1999PTC031903

Company & Directors' Information:- S S SERVICES PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U51109AS1993PTC003956

Company & Directors' Information:- A N Y SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74899DL1995PTC071457

Company & Directors' Information:- N B SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74899DL1993PTC056484

Company & Directors' Information:- P C SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U00894KA1985PTC006606

Company & Directors' Information:- M. V. S SERVICES INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U93000DL2013PTC252172

Company & Directors' Information:- S D SERVICES PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U51109AS1998PTC005293

Company & Directors' Information:- H AND B SERVICES LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U72900MH2004PTC145775

Company & Directors' Information:- C & R SERVICES (INDIA) PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74140KA1996PTC019645

Company & Directors' Information:- E AND A SERVICES (INDIA) PRIVATE LIMITED [Under Process of Striking Off] CIN = U51900MH1989PTC054373

Company & Directors' Information:- A. H. SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74990MH2009PTC193917

Company & Directors' Information:- M E R I T SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U51900MH1999PTC118445

Company & Directors' Information:- P F P SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900MH2009PTC293633

Company & Directors' Information:- U M S SERVICES LIMITED [Active] CIN = U03210TZ1982PLC001208

Company & Directors' Information:- SERVICES (INDIA) PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74140DL1996PTC078465

Company & Directors' Information:- E AND E SERVICES LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U65992KL1988PLC005094

Company & Directors' Information:- S R V N SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U50200DL2004PTC124035

Company & Directors' Information:- A R SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U00000DL2001PTC109578

Company & Directors' Information:- INSURANCE SERVICES (INDIA ) PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U66030MH2001PTC133437

Company & Directors' Information:- M C SERVICES (INDIA) PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74999PN1999PTC013532

Company & Directors' Information:- S L S INSURANCE SERVICES INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U67200TZ2007PTC013868

Company & Directors' Information:- D AND S INSURANCE SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U55101MH2000PTC126342

Company & Directors' Information:- S C L SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U63012TN2001PTC046650

Company & Directors' Information:- A B SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74140DL1998PTC093545

Company & Directors' Information:- G P SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74899DL1989PTC037683

Company & Directors' Information:- R AND T SERVICES PRIVATE LTD. [Strike Off] CIN = U72501DL1998PTC096640

Company & Directors' Information:- S S SERVICES PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U74140WB1988PTC044009

Company & Directors' Information:- S S D SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74910RJ1996PTC012694

Company & Directors' Information:- V & V SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74990MH2010PTC206211

Company & Directors' Information:- S. P. INSURANCE SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74120MH2015PTC265338

Company & Directors' Information:- P AND I SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U63090MH1981PTC024997

Company & Directors' Information:- R. B. SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999MH2017PTC302692

Company & Directors' Information:- S N SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74900JK2014PTC004110

Company & Directors' Information:- STANDARD UTILITY PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51909DL2013PTC254898

Company & Directors' Information:- V. S. SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74999DL2012PTC233958

Company & Directors' Information:- S & V SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999DL2015PTC287145

Company & Directors' Information:- G W SERVICES PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U79140DL2001PTC111194

Company & Directors' Information:- B 2 B SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74140HR2013PTC049213

Company & Directors' Information:- R K SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U45200HR2007PTC041783

Company & Directors' Information:- N I SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U64202KL2000PTC014355

Company & Directors' Information:- F I SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74999DL2001PTC113001

Company & Directors' Information:- B I M SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74140KA1974PTC002694

Company & Directors' Information:- A-1 STANDARD PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U16000MH1998PTC114505

Company & Directors' Information:- M J B E-SERVICES PRIVATE LIMITED. [Strike Off] CIN = U72400DL2006PTC150832

Company & Directors' Information:- PUBLIC UTILITY CORPORATION LIMITED [Dissolved] CIN = U99999MH1927PTC001342

    Writ Petition No. 5766 of 2019

    Decided On, 08 November 2019

    At, High Court of Andhra Pradesh

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE C. PRAVEEN KUMAR & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE CHEEKATI MANAVENDRANATH ROY

    For the Petitioners: T.P. Ravishanker, Advocate. For the Respondents: R1, S. Lakshminarayana Reddy, R2, L.J. Veera Reddy, Advocates.



Judgment Text


Cheekati Manavendranath Roy, J.

By way of this Writ Petition M/s.HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Ltd, the petitioner herein, challenges the legality and validity of the Award dated 15.11.2018 of the Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa, passed in PLAC No.226 of 2018 directing the petitioner/Insurance Company to pay a sum of Rs.50.00 Lakhs with interest at the rate of 16% p.a. to the 2nd respondent/nominee towards claim under Policy bearing No.19111262.

Facts of the Writ Petition are rather jejune and may be stated as follows:

The parties herein will be referred as the claimant and the Insurance Company in this Writ Petition.

The claimant/petitioner in PLAC No.226 of 2018 is the wife of late N.Nagi Reddy. Her husband Nagi Reddy, during his life-time, has taken a policy dated 24.04.2017 on his life from the HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Ltd. for a sum of Rs.50.00 Lakhs and paid premium of Rs.29,945/- to the Insurance Company. The policy certificate bearing No.19111262 was issued to N.Nagi Reddy. He has shown the claimant, who is his wife, as nominee in the said policy.

Thereafter, N.Nagi Reddy died of heart attack on 16.11.2017. So, the claimant who is his wife and nominee under the policy, approached the Insurance Company on 02.01.2018, informed them that the policy holder Nagi Reddy died on 16.11.2017 and submitted her claim form requesting Insurance Company to release the amount payable under the policy on account of death of her husband, the policy holder.

The Insurance Company has repudiated the claim of the claimant on the ground that Nagi Reddy did not disclose that there are existing policies taken from other insurance companies, in the relevant column in the proposal form submitted by him for issuance of policy and that he has suppressed the said fact and did not disclose the true facts in the proposal form.

Therefore, the claimant approached the Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa. The Permanent Lok Adalat has taken cognizance of the claim of the claimant under Section 22A(b) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (for short, “the Act”) and issued notice to the Insurance Company under Section 22C(3) of the Act. Despite receipt of notice, none appeared on behalf of the Insurance Company before the Permanent Lok Adalat. Therefore, holding that, as no settlement could be arrived on account of non-appearance of the Insurance Company, the Permanent Lok Adalat decided the dispute on merits on the basis of the affidavit filed by the claimant in lieu of her evidence and Exs.A-1 to A-6 marked on behalf of the claimant. The Permanent Lok Adalat held that the nondisclosure of the fact that there are other policies existing in the proposal form is not a material fact and that by itself cannot be a valid ground to repudiate the claim under the insurance policy and thereby allowed the claim of the claimant and passed the impugned award directing the Insurance Company to pay a sum of Rs.50.00 Lakhs to the claimant towards the claim under the policy bearing No.19111262 with interest at the rate of 16% p.a. from the date of death of the policy holder i.e. 16.11.2017 till the date of realization of the said amount.

The Insurance Company seeks to assail the said Award on the ground that the Permanent Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute without making an effort for settlement between the parties and even otherwise, the Permanent Lok Adalat cannot adjudicate the dispute and it has no jurisdiction to decide the dispute on merits.

Therefore, feeling aggrieved by the award, the Insurance Company has filed the present Writ Petition assailing the legality and validity of the impugned Award.

The claimant resisted the writ petition and she has filed a counter-affidavit denying the material averments made in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition. She denied that her husband late N.Nagi Reddy had other existing insurance policies at the time of submitting proposal form for issuance of policy on his life by the Insurance Company. It is stated that the Insurance Company did not furnish the details of the said policies i.e. the policy numbers and the name of the insurance companies who issued the insurance policies etc. and as such, the Insurance Company cannot repudiate the claim on the ground that there are other insurance policies in existence at the time of submission of the proposal form and on the ground that the insured did not furnish the said details and suppressed the said fact. It is stated that the Permanent Lok Adalat has jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute as the Insurance Company did not turn up for settlement of the dispute by conciliation. Therefore, the Permanent Lok Adalat has decided the said dispute on merits. So, she prayed to dismiss the Writ Petition.

We have heard Sri T.P. Ravishanker, learned counsel for the petitioner-Insurance Company and Sri S.Lakshmi Narayana Reddy, learned counsel for the 1st respondent and Sri L.J. Veera Reddy, learned counsel for the 2nd respondent-claimant.

The material facts relating to issuance of policy No.19111262 on the life of late N. Nagi Reddy for a sum of Rs.50.00 Lakhs and the payment of premium of Rs.29,945/- by him are all absolutely not in controversy. The fact that the insured died on 16.11.2017 is also not in dispute.

As regards the contention of the Insurance Company that the Permanent Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction to adjudicate and decide the dispute on merits without making an effort for settlement between the parties is concerned, at the outset, we hold that the said contention is devoid of any merit. Admittedly, the Insurance Company did not respond to the notice issued by the Permanent Lok Adalat and none appeared on behalf of the Insurance Company before the Permanent Lok Adalat. Therefore, as the Insurance Company did not appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat in response to the notice received by them, no settlement could be arrived at between both the parties to the lis. So, the Permanent Lok Adalat has proceeded to decide the dispute on merits and adjudicate the dispute. The Insurance Company did not assign any reason, as can be seen from the pleadings in the Writ Petition, as to why they did not appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat in response to the notice received by them. No reasons are stated which prevented them from appearing before the Permanent Lok Adalat. So, it is evident that Insurance Company deliberately did not appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat which is a statutory adjudicating authority under the Act. Even when we have questioned from the Bench at the time of hearing the Writ Petition as to why the Insurance Company did not appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat in response to the notice received by it, learned counsel for the writ petitioner stated that as per the instructions given by the Insurance Company that the Insurance Company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat and as such they did not appear before the Lok Adalat. The said reason now given for non-appearance of the Insurance Company before the Permanent Lok Adalat in response to the notice received from the Permanent Lok Adalat is very strange and it cannot be countenanced. It shows the recalcitrant nature and attitude of the concerned officials of the Insurance Company. Therefore, it is to be held that the Insurance Company deliberately did not respond to the notice of the Permanent Lok Adalat and did not appear before it for settlement. So, in the said facts and circumstances of the case, as the Insurance Company failed to appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat to arrive at any settlement between the parties, the Permanent Lok Adalat is left with no other option except to decide the dispute on merits on the basis of the material placed before it and adjudicate the same. So, it cannot be said that the Permanent Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute.

Chapter VIA is newly introduced in the Legal Services Authorities Act constituting Permanent Lok Adalats to entertain pre-litigation cases for conciliation and settlement and to adjudicate the disputes. Under the Scheme of the Act, as per Section 22C any party to a dispute may, before the dispute is brought before any court, make an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat for settlement of dispute in respect of the disputes arising out of public utility services enumerated in Section 22A of the Act. Insurance service is one of the public utility services enumerated therein. If the parties could not arrive at a settlement under clause (8) of Section 22C of the Act, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall, if the dispute does not relate to any offence, decide the dispute. Therefore, as the Insurance Company did not respond to the notice issued by the Permanent Lok Adalat to arrive at an amicable settlement between the parties, it is to be held that no settlement could be arrived at or the parties failed to reach at an agreement as contemplated under clause (7) of Section 22C of the Act, due to non-cooperation of the Insurance Company. So, the Permanent Lok Adalat decided the said dispute as contemplated under clause (8) of Section 22C of the Act. Therefore, it cannot be said that the impugned award that was passed by the Permanent Lok Adalat is without jurisdiction. In fact as per clause (8) of Section 22C, the Permanent Lok Adalat has ample jurisdiction to decide the dispute on merits. So, the said contention of the Insurance Company holds no water and it is rejected.

The next question that arises for consideration is whether the Insurance Company who did not contest the dispute before the Permanent Lok Adalat can question the said award by invoking the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Section 22E of the Act ordains that every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat made either on merit or in terms of a settlement shall be final and binding on all the parties thereto and on persons claiming under them. Clause (4) Section 22E of the Act prohibits questioning the said Award in any Original Suit, application or execution proceeding. Therefore, it is evident from Section 22E of the Act that the Award passed by the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and no appeal lies there against and the award also cannot be questioned in any Original Suit, Application or execution proceeding. So, the only remedy available to the Insurance Company is to challenge the said Award by invoking the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, however, on limited grounds relating to legal aspects.

Now the crucial question that arises for consideration is whether the Insurance Company who allowed the Permanent Lok Adalat to hear the matter ex parte on account of its deliberate non-appearance before the Permanent Lok Adalat despite receipt of notice, can question the said award even under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. In our considered view, the answer must be in affirmative. Even though an ex parte award was passed by the Permanent Lok Adalat, if the respondent to the Award feels aggrieved by it on account of manifest error of law in passing the said award, the same can be questioned in the Writ Court.

In the instant case, it is the specific case of the Insurance Company that the insured deliberately suppressed the existence of policies taken by him from other Insurance Companies and did not furnish true and correct information relating to the existence of the other policies in the proposal form submitted by the insured as required by the Insurance Company which is the basis for issuing the insurance policy by the Insurance Company. In fact, in Ex.A-2-letter dated 08.03.2018 the Insurance Company repudiated the claim of the claimant on the ground that the life assured had policies with other insurance companies which were not disclosed in the application dated 13.03.2017 stating that if this information was provided to the Insurance Company at the time of applying for the insurance policy, they would have declined the application.

The Permanent Lok Adalat simply brushed aside the said contention in the impugned award on the ground that if the Insurance Company required the said details that they should have called for the details from the claimant. The said finding of Permanent Lok Adalat, in our view, is not correct. As the life assured stated unequivocally in the proposal form while filling up the relevant column that he had no existing insurance cover of premium paying or paid up policies, the Insurance Company had no occasion to doubt the correctness of the said information at that time and as such, the occasion to call for any such information from the insured did not arise for the Insurance Company. So, the Permanent Lok Adalat erred in arriving at a conclusion that the Insurance Company ought to have called for the said information from the claimant. In fact, it is for the insured to make disclosure of true facts without suppressing the information sought for by the Insurance Company in the proposal form.

At this juncture, it is relevant to note that contract of insurance is based on good faith. The contract of insurance is governed by the doctrine of uberrima fidei and there must be complete good faith on the part of the insured. Therefore, the insured is under solemn obligation to make full disclosure of material facts which may be relevant for the insurer to take into account while deciding whether the proposal should be accepted or not. Therefore, while making a disclosure of the relevant facts which are required by the Insurance Company, the duty of the insured to state them correctly cannot be diluted. There is a purpose behind insisting the insured to furnish the details relating to the existing policy in the proposal form. Disclosure of pre-existing life insurance cover of the proposer is necessary for Insurance Company to enable the insurer to assess the human life value of the proposer before issuance of the policy and also to ascertain whether he can pay premiums of all those policies as per his financial position. The consequence of non-disclosure of pre-existing cover is that the insurer is unable to assess the real risk.

In fact, there is a direct judgment of the Apex Court on the present controversy. In Reliance Life Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Rekhaben Nareshbhai Rathod (Judgment of the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No.4261 of 2019 dated 24.04.2019), very recently the Supreme Court after elaborately discussing the relevant provisions in the Insurance Act and after considering the earlier judgments rendered on the point by the Apex Court and also by various High Courts authoritatively held that the information required by the Insurance Company to be furnished in the proposal form by the insured relating to the existing policies is vital in nature and the said information is required by the Insurance Company to enable the Insurance Company to assess the human life value of the proposer before issuance of policy and the consequences of non-disclosure of pre-existing cover is that the Insurance Company is unable to assess the realities. The Apex Court ultimately held in the judgment that non-disclosure of any such information relating to existing policy in the proposal form gives right to the Insurance Company to repudiate the claim under Section 45 of the Insurance Act. The Apex Court in the above judgment in clear terms held as follows:

“In the present case, the insurer had sought information with respect to previous insurance policies obtained by the assured. The duty of full disclosure by the assured required that no information of substance or of interest to the insurer be omitted or concealed. Whether or not the insurer would have issued a life insurance cover despite the earlier cover of insurance is a decision which was required to be taken by the insurer after duly considering all relevant facts and circumstances. The disclosure of the earlier cover was material to an assessment of the risk which was being undertaken by the insurer. Prior to undertaking the risk, this information could potentially allow the insurer to question as to why the insured had in such a short span of time obtained two different life insurance policies. Such a fact is sufficient to put the insurer to enquiry.”

Therefore, when such is the consequence of the nondisclosure of information relating to existing policy in the proposal form, the plea relating to the repudiation of claim on the ground of non-disclosure of the said details in the proposal form cannot be rejected on the ground that the Insurance Company ought to have called for the said details from the insured.

Section 45 of the Insurance Act, 1938 reads as under:

“45. Policy not be called in question on ground of misstatement after three years.—(1) No policy of life insurance shall be called in question on any ground whatsoever after the expiry of three years from the date of the policy, i.e., from the date of issuance of the policy or the date of commencement of risk or the date of revival of the policy or the date of the rider to the policy, whichever is later.

(2) A policy of life insurance may be called in question at any time within three years from the date of issuance of the policy or the date of commencement of risk or the date of revival of the policy or the date of the rider to the policy, whichever is later, on the ground of fraud:

Provided that the insurer shall have to communicate in writing to the insured or the legal representatives or nominees or assignees of the insured the grounds and materials on which such decision is based.

Explanation I.—For the purposes of this sub-section, the expression "fraud" means any of the following acts committed by the insured or by his agent, with intent to deceive the insurer or to induce the insurer to issue a life insurance policy:—

(a) the suggestion, as a fact of that which is not true and which the insured does not believe to be true;

(b) the active concealment of a fact by the insured having knowledge or belief of the fact;

(c) any other act fitted to deceive; and

(d) any such act or omission as the law specially declares to be fraudulent.

Explanation II.—Mere silence as to facts likely to affect the assessment of the risk by the insurer is not fraud, unless the circumstances of the case are such that regard being had to them, it is the duty of the insured or his agent keeping silence, to speak, or unless his silence is, in itself, equivalent to speak.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (2), no insurer shall repudiate a life insurance policy on the ground of fraud if the insured can prove that the misstatement of or suppression of a material fact was true to the best of his knowledge and belief or that there was no deliberate intention to suppress the fact or that such misstatement of or suppression of a material fact are within the knowledge of the insurer:

Provided that in case of fraud, the onus of disproving lies upon the beneficiaries, in case the policyholder is not alive.

Explanation.—A person who solicits and negotiates a contract of insurance shall be deemed for the purpose of the formation of the contract, to be the agent of the insurer.

(4) A policy of life insurance may be called in question at any time within three years from the date of issuance of the policy or the date of commencement of risk or the date of revival of the policy or the date of the rider to the policy, whichever is later, on the ground that any statement of or suppression of a fact material to the expectancy of the life of the insured was incorrectly made in the proposal or other document on the basis of which the policy was issued or revived or rider issued:

Provided that the insurer shall have to communicate in writing to the insured or the legal representatives or nominees or assignees of the insured the grounds and materials on which such decision to repudiate the policy of life insurance is based:

Provided further that in case of repudiation of the policy on the ground of misstatement or suppression of a material fact, and not on the ground of fraud, the premiums collected on the policy till the date of repudiation shall be paid to the insured or the legal representatives or nominees or assignees of the insured within a period of ninety days from the date of such repudiation.

Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-section, the misstatement of or suppression of fact shall not be considered material unless it has a direct bearing on the risk undertaken by the insurer, the onus is on the insurer to show that had the insurer been aware of the said fact no life insurance policy would have been issued to the insured.

(5) Nothing in this section shall prevent the insurer from calling for proof of age at any time if he is entitled to do so, and no policy shall be deemed to be called in question merely because the terms of the policy are adjusted on subsequent proof that the age of the life insured was incorrectly stated in the proposal.”

A careful perusal of the Section shows that it is in two parts. The first part relates to questioning the insurance policy by the Insurance Company within three years from the date on which the insurance policy came into effect on the ground of fraud and the second part relates to repudiation of claim by the Insurance Company within three years of the policy coming into effect on the ground of suppression of material fact. Clause (2) of Section 45, in the first part, says that the Insurance Company can call in question the insurance policy at any time within three years from the date of issuance of the policy, on the ground of fraud. Explanation I appended to it deals with what is meant by “fraud” and as per the said Explanation, the following four grounds can be construed as an act of “fraud”:

“(a) the suggestion, as a fact of that which is not true and which the insured does not believe to be true;

(b) the active concealment of a fact by the insured having knowledge or belief of the fact;

(c) any other act fitted to deceive; and

(d) any such act or omission as the law specially declares to be fraudulent.”

As per the proviso to clause (3) of Section 45, when Insurance Company calls in question the insurance policy within three years on the ground of fraud, the onus of disproving lies upon the beneficiaries, in case the policy holder is not alive. As per clause (4) of Section 45, in the second part, the Insurance Company can also call in question the insurance policy within three years from the date of issuance of the said policy, or from the date of commencement of risk on the ground that any statement of or suppression of a fact material to the expectancy of the life of the insured was incorrectly made in the proposal or other document on the basis of which the policy was issued and can repudiate the claim.

Therefore, while invoking Section 45 of the Insurance Act, the Insurance Company has repudiated the said claim on the ground that the insured has suppressed the information relating to existence of earlier policies issued by other insurance companies and that he has furnished incorrect information in the proposal form.

Now the main contention of the claimant/nominee is that the assured had no existing policy issued by any other insurance companies at the time of submitting the proposal form and that the Insurance Company also without furnishing any details relating to the said policies said to have been in existence, simply declined the claim of the claimant in Ex.A-2 letter. No doubt it is true that the Insurance Company did not furnish any details relating to the policy said to have been in existence at the time of submitting the proposal form by the assured. However, after the counter-affidavit is filed by the nominee in this Writ Petition, the Insurance Company has come forward with a reply affidavit dated 05.09.2019 furnishing the details of policies said to have been in existence at the time of submitting the proposal form. In the said reply affidavit, it is stated that (1) ICICI Life Insurance policy bearing No.207252576 commencing from 16.03.2017; (2) SBI Life Insurance Policy bearing No.56053794408 commencing from 17.09.2013 and (3) Bajaj Life Insurance policy bearing No.0106323993 commencing from 09.03.2017 were in existence at the time of submitting the proposal form by the assured and that he has suppressed the details of these policies in the proposal form. In fact, the Insurance Company has also submitted copies of e-mails through which information relating to existence of two insurance policies issued in favour of the assured N. Nagi Reddy by the ICICI Life Insurance and SBI Life Insurance companies

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was furnished. So, as the Insurance Company could now secure some information and evidence relating to existence of two insurance policies in the name of N.Nagi Reddy at the time of submitting the proposal form by him on 13.03.2017, and if the said fact is ultimately found to be true, certainly it may have its adverse effect on the claim of the claimant-nominee and it may justify repudiation of the said claim by the Insurance Company in view of the law laid down in the above judgment of the Apex Court. Therefore, in the said facts and circumstances of the case, as the plea relating to repudiation of claim is vital in nature as it would go to the root of the matter relating to the claim made by the nominee and as the amount involved in this claim is huge which is Rs.50.00 Lakhs with interest at the rate of 16% p.a. thereon, we deem it appropriate to set aside the impugned award and remand the matter to the Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa for fresh adjudication after giving an opportunity to the Insurance Company to contest the matter by adducing evidence in support of repudiation of the claim under Section 45 of the Insurance Act, lest grave injustice would be caused to the Insurance Company in this matter. However, we also deem it appropriate to allow this Writ Petition and permit the Insurance Company to contest the lis before the Permanent Lok Adalat by adducing evidence in support of their claim of repudiation by imposing heavy costs as Insurance Company deliberately did not contest the lis before the Permanent Lok Adalat after receipt of notices from the Permanent Lok Adalat. Therefore, the Writ Petition is allowed setting aside the impugned Award dated 15.11.2018 of the Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa, passed in PLAC No.226 of 2018 on costs of Rs.30,000/- (Rupees Thirty thousand only) payable to the nominee, 2nd respondent-claimant. The matter is remanded to the Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa, for fresh adjudication. The Permanent Lok Adalat, Kadapa, shall afford an opportunity to the Insurance Company to contest the lis and adduce evidence in support of its contention. If the claimant intends to adduce any rebuttal evidence, opportunity to addue evidence is to be given to her also and thereafter decide the dispute according to law. We make it clear that we have not decided anything on fact or merit. We have only dealt with legal position. Therefore, in deciding the said dispute, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall not be swayed away by any of the observations made by us incidentally in this Writ Petition and it shall independently consider the evidence adduced by both the parties and adjudicate the dispute independently in accordance with law. Consequently, miscellaneous applications, pending if any, shall also stand closed.
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