Firm loses claim over removal of evidence
RR Sen & Bros, which was engaged in money changing and foreign exchange, had taken a policy from United India Insurance to cover its stocks. The building in which its offices were located caught fire. The insurer initially appointed Mehta Padamsey as the surveyor. After four months, another surveyor was appointed as directed by Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA).
As the claim was repudiated, the company filed a complaint against United India before the National Commission seeking Rs 2.49 crore toward loss of entire stock of currency, including traveller’s cheques and share certificates. The insurer contested the case, stating the insured had informed the surveyor that the Calcutta high court had restrained anyone from entering the building, and that permission would have to be sought to carry out a survey.
The company obtained the court’s permission and clearance from the ATS to move two safes. The surveyor was intimated. Yet, without waiting for the surveyor to reach the site or conduct the survey, the insured cleared the debris and moved four safes to its godown.
The surveyor accused the company of manipulating the evidence. The surveyor also reported that two safes were found to contain some damaged currency and coins, while the third one contained a small quantity of cash, and the fourth one was almost empty. The survey report termed this as tampering of evidence and giving false information, and recommended rejection of the claim.
The National Commission observed four safes had been moved, though permission was obtained for shifting two safes. It pointed out the surveyor was thus prevented from witnessing the recovery of the safes from the debris and verifying the loss. The Commission concluded the insured had destroyed the physical evidence required to carry out the assessment of the claim through verification of the loss. The Commission held that the conduct of the insured had created a serious doubt about genuineness of the claim.
The National Commission concluded that the removal of safes prior to the survey would justify the repudiation of the insurance claim. Accordingly, by its order of February 6, 2019, delivered by C Viswanath for the bench along with Anup Thakur, the National Commission dismissed the complaint.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India's National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is jehangir.gai.colum[email protected]look.in)