26 May 2020


Judgments

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

Swastik Petrochem (I) pvt. Ltd. Vs. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd.

MANU/CF/0511/2017

16.08.2017

Consumer

Discharge voucher cannot be obtained by any kind of pressure or compulsion upon the insured

In present case, the complainant company obtained a Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy for the period from 3rd November, 2012 to 2nd November, 2013 with respect to the building, furniture, and fixtures & fittings, plant and machinery, stock of raw-material, finished goods, stock in progress, etc. to the extent of Rs. 5,90,00,000/-. The case of the complainant is that, in an incident of fire which took place in its factory premises, there was major loss of and damage to the building, machinery, stock etc. which had been insured under the aforesaid policy. On intimation being given to the insurer, a surveyor was appointed to assess the loss to the complainant. The surveyor assessed the loss to the complainant at about Rs. 1,41,00,000/-. An amount of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- was paid to the complainant, after it had executed the discharge voucher for payment of the said amount. The case of the complainant, is that the surveyor did not correctly assess the loss suffered by it, which in fact was to the extent of Rs. 4,72,00,000/-. This is also the case of the complainant that discharge voucher in favour of the insurer was executed by it under pressure, on account of the financial difficulties which the complainant faced at the time the loss happened.

There is no evidence of the complainant having written to the insurer, soon after 27th December, 2013 when the payment of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- was credited in its account, to the insurer alleging therein that the payment was accepted by it on account of financial difficulty and/or any kind of duress. There is no evidence or even allegation of any protest having been lodged by the complainant with the insurer before executing the discharge voucher. The complainant has placed on record a letter dated 19th May, 2014 sent by it to the insurer after receipt of the survey report. In the aforesaid letter, the date of receipt of the survey report is stated to be 24th February, 2014, as against the receipt date of 20th March, 2014 given in para 24 of the complaint. Moreover, the letter does not even indicate that the survey report was obtained under the Right to Information Act. What is material, however, is that in the aforesaid letter dated 19.5.2014, written by the complainant more than four and half months after receipt of amount of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- from the insurer there is not a whisper of any financial difficulty or any alleged duress on the part of the insurer. There is no allegation in the aforesaid letter that the amount of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- was accepted by the complainant in order to avoid recurring payment of interest and/or in order to resume its business operation. The only plea taken in the letter is that the surveyor had arbitrarily reduced the claim amount without any basis. The aforesaid letter belies the case set out in para 23 of the complaint that the amount of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- was accepted by the complainant on account of financial difficulties arising from the disruption of its business and in order to avoid recurring liability to pay interest to its banker. Had the complainant accepted the aforesaid payment under any kind of duress or financial pressure, considering the normal course of human conduct, it would certainly have stated so in some communication to the insurer, soon after receipt of the aforesaid amount. However, such an allegation is missing even from the letter sent by the complainant to the insurer more than four and half months after receipt of the aforesaid amount.

In these circumstances, Commission is satisfied that the acceptance of the payment of Rs. 1,40,01,008/- by the complainant was a voluntary act without any kind of financial pressure or duress and therefore, having voluntarily accepted the said payment, the complainant is estopped from claiming any further compensation from the OP on account of the loss suffered by it in the instant of fire subject matter of this complaint.

The Complainant relied upon the circulars dated 24th September, 2015 and 7th June, 2016 issued by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India on the issue of execution of discharge vouchers in settlement of claims. From a combined reading of the two circulars, it appears that, the insurance company is justified in asking the insured to issue a discharge voucher which is dated and complete in all respects but if the amount offered by the insurer is not acceptable to the insured, the insured cannot insist upon execution of the discharge voucher before releasing the amount offered by it. In that case, the insurer must release the amount offered by it, irrespective of whether the discharge voucher is executed by the insured or not. What is important is that, the discharge voucher cannot be obtained by any kind of pressure or compulsion upon the insured. However, as far as the present case is concerned, there is no evidence of any kind of duress, coercion or compulsion having been applied by the insurer.

The complainant accepted the amount offered by the insurer voluntarily as is evident from its subsequent conduct in not lodging any kind of written protest and not claiming that the aforesaid amount had been accepted by it on account of financial circumstances of the complainant company. Moreover, even in the letter sent by the insured to the insurer more than four and a half months after receiving the amount Rs. 1,40,01,008/-, there was no whisper of the alleged financial difficulty of the complainant. There is no merit in the complaint and it is dismissed accordingly.

Tags : Compensation Grant

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