Communicate to the right person

Sukhwinder Kaur applied for a life insurance policy from Bharati Axa Life Insurance. She paid a premium of Rs 95,000 by cheque issued on March 10, 2014. As she did not receive the policy, she repeatedly contacted the insurer, but did not receive any response. In July 2014, Kaur approached the District Forum with a complaint that the company had failed to send her the policy, along with terms and conditions, despite having received the premium. So, her policy should be cancelled and the premium refunded.

The insurer contested the case claiming that the policy had been issued on March 11, 2014, and dispatched through speed post on March 14, 2014, and delivered to Sukhwinder at her residence on March 21, 2014. The insurer claimed that she had signed the postal receipt. Since the free-look period of 15 days had passed, it could neither cancel nor refund the premium. Since the crucial question was about delivery, the postman was summoned, who deposed that the speed post article was handed over to one Rajbir Kaur who was present at the residence.

In view of the postman's evidence, the District Forum concluded that delivery of the policy at Kaur's residence was valid proof of service. Hence, it held that there was no deficiency in service, and dismissed the complaint. Kaur challenged the  order, but it was dismissed by the Punjab State Commission.

Kaur approached the National Commission in revision. The main thrust of her argument was that both the lower forums had erred in considering the service to be proper merely because the postman had averred that it was delivered to her residence. But they had overlooked the fact that it had been handed over to Rajbir Kaur instead of giving it to her. Sukhwinder Kaur produced her ration card to show that Rajbir was neither residing with her nor related to her. The National Commission considered the evidence of the postman. In his cross-examination, the postman had gone on record that he did not recollect if he had asked Rajbir Kaur about her relationship with Sukhwinder Kaur.

The National Commission noted that the policy was handed over to Rajbir Kaur without verifying if she was related to the insured. Merely because the postman had delivered the policy at the correct address cannot lead to an assumption that it was delivered to the correct person. The Commission concluded that there was neither any evidence to establish that delivery was proper, nor was there anything to show that the policy had been received by Kaur. Also, Sukhwinder's consistent follow up with the insurer about non-receipt of the policy, and the filing of the consumer complaint within four months of having applied for the insurance coverage, lent credibility to her case.

The Commission concluded that due to non-receipt of the policy, Kaur was deprived of the 15 days free look in the period. Accordingly, by its order of May 15, 2018, delivered by Justice Ajit Bharihoke, the National Commission held that Sukhwinder was justified in seeking a refund of the premium, and ordered the insurance company to refund Rs 95,000 along with 8 per cent interest from the date when the complaint was filed. 

The writer is a consumer activist


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