Firm loses claim over re­moval of ev­i­dence

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Je­hangir B Gai

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)

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