Insurance Company Ltd Vs. Sehtia Shoes  Insc 296 (26 February 2008)
Arijit Pasayat & P. Sathasivam
APPEAL NO 1602 OF 2008 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 12953 of 2005) Dr. ARIJIT
Challenge in this appeal is to the order passed by the National Consumer Redressal
Commission, New Delhi (in short 'National Commission').
The National Commission by the impugned order dismissed the revision petition
filed by the appellant questioning correctness of the order passed by the
Consumer District Forum, Hissar (in short 'District Forum') and State Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission, Haryana (in short 'State Commission').
controversy lies within a very narrow compass.
was lodged by the respondent who had obtained a shopkeeper insurance policy of
the appellant company on 15.7.2001. A claim was lodged with the appellant
stating that on account of fire insured articles got destroyed. The Surveyors
and Loss Assessors assessed the net loss at Rs.2,82,301/-. It is the case of
the appellant that respondent without demur accepted the sum of Rs.2,72,301/-
in full and final settlement and accordingly payment of Rs.2,72,301/- was made.
Thereafter a complaint was lodged before the District Forum claiming that his
claim was Rs.9 lacs and he should be indemnified to the extent of Rs.9 lacs
less Rs.2,72,301/- which had been received by him. Appellant objected to the
complaint stating that since the respondent had accepted the amount without any
protest no further claim survives and the complaint was not maintainable.
District Forum noted the rival stand including the stand of the respondent that
the so called settlement was signed by him under coercion and, therefore, the
claim petition was maintainable. The District Forum awarded a sum of Rs.4,95,000/-.
In appeal, the State Commission dismissed the appeal after noticing the rival
stands which were reiteration of the stands taken before the District Forum. A
revision, as noted above, was filed before the National Commission which
dismissed the same holding as follows:
our view, the impugned order passed by the State Commission does not call for
any interference. The District Forum as well as State Commission considered the
various statements including Income-tax and Sales Tax returns as well as
statements submitted to the bank and also surveyor's report. In our view, the
assessment by the surveyor in the present case cannot be accepted because
surveyor has observed that even though the shoes were affected by water and
smoke, yet the loss would be only 30% and thereafter reduced the assessment of
loss, in our view this was unjustified.
revision petition is dismissed."
Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that though a claim can be entertained
even when there is a settlement to receive a particular amount, yet the same is
subject to the condition that the earlier settlement was obtained under
coercion and/or was not on account of free will. In the instant case it is
submitted this vital aspect has been lost sight of by the District Forum, the
State Commission and the National Commission.
response, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that immediately after
the so called settlement was arrived at grievance, was lodged with the authority
stating that settlement was not free and fair.
United India Insurance. v. Ajmer Singh Cotton & General Mills
and Ors. (1999 (6) SCC 400), it was, inter alia, observed as follows:
We have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record. It is
true that the award of interest is not specifically authorised under the
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter called "the Act") but in
view of our judgment in Sovintorg (India) Ltd. v. State Bank of India, Civil Appeal No. 82 of 1992 decided on
11.8.1999, we are of the opinion that in appropriate cases the forum and the
commissions under the Act are authorised to grant reasonable interest under the
facts and circumstances of each case. The mere execution of the discharge
voucher would not always deprive the consumer from preferring claim with
respect to the deficiency in service or consequential benefits arising out of
the amount paid in default of the service rendered. Despite execution of the
discharge voucher, the consumer may be in a position to satisfy the Tribunal or
the Commission under the Act that such discharge voucher or receipt had been
obtained from him under the circumstances which can be termed as fraudulent or
exercise of undue influence or by misrepresentation or the like. If in a given
case the consumer satisfies the authority under the Act that the discharge
voucher was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence or the like,
coercive bargaining compelled by circumstances, the authority before whom the
complaint is made would be justified in granting appropriate relief. However
(sic so), where such discharge voucher is proved to have been obtained under
any of the suspicious circumstances noted hereinabove, the Tribunal or the
commission would be justified in granting the appropriate relief under the
circumstances of each case. The mere execution of the discharge voucher and
acceptance of the insurance claim would not estop the insured from making
further claim from the insurer but only under the circumstances as noticed
earlier. The Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums and Commissions constituted
under the Act shall also have the power to fasten liability against the
insurance companies notwithstanding the issuance of the discharge voucher. Such
a claim cannot be termed to be fastening the liability against the insurance
companies over and above the liabilities payable under the contract of
insurance envisaged in the policy of insurance. The claim preferred regarding
the deficiency of service shall be deemed to be based upon the insurance
policy, being covered by the provisions of Section 14 of the Act.
the instant cases the discharge vouchers were admittedly executed voluntarily
and the complainants had not alleged their execution under fraud, undue influence,
misrepresentation or the like. In the absence of pleadings and evidence the
State Commission was justified in dismissing their complaints.
National Commission however granted relief solely on the ground of delay in the
settlement of claim under the policies. The mere delay of a couple of months
would not have authorised the National Commission to grant relief particularly
when the insurer had not complained of such a delay at the time of acceptance
of the insurance amount under the policy. We are not satisfied with the
reasoning of the National Commission and are of the view that the State
Commission was justified in dismissing the complaints though on different reasonings.
The observations of the State Commission in Jivajeerao Cotton Mills Ltd. v. New
India Assurance Co. Ltd, OP No. 52 of 1991 decided on 28.11.1991, shall always
be construed in the light of our findings in this judgment and the mere receipt
of the amount without any protest would not always debar the claimant from
filing the complaint."
Filing of a complaint is, therefore, not barred; but it has to be proved that
agreement to accept a particular amount was on account of coercion. In the
instant case, this relevant factor has not been considered specifically by the
District Forum, State Commission and the National Commission.
plea of coercion was taken by claimant-respondent, same was refuted by the
appellant. There is no dispute that the discharge voucher had been signed by
has to be an adjudication as to whether the discharge voucher was signed
voluntarily or under coercion. We remit the matter to the District Forum for
fresh consideration. It would do well to dispose of the matter as early as
practicable, preferably by the end of September, 2008.
appeal is allowed to the aforesaid extent. No costs.
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