The Supreme Court on Monday declined to grant the insurance claim to the legal heir of a man who died of asphyxia due to alcohol consumption.
A bench of Justices M.M. Shantangoudar and Vineet Saran said the proviso of the insurance company makes it amply clear that the injured is not entitled to compensation since it was proved that he was intoxicated and that death was due to intoxication. The top court said the insurer was only liable to compensate a person who got injured solely and directly from an accident.
The bench upheld the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) which ruled that the death was not accidental and therefore, the firm had no statutory liability to compensate the loss of life of the deceased according to the terms of the insurance policy. "The provisions of insurance policy specifically disclose that compensation will not be paid in respect of injury of the injured if he is under the influence of intoxicating liquor," it said.
The bench said it does not find any reason to interfere with the April 24, 2009 passed by the NCDRC. "From a bare perusal of the insurance policy, it is clear that only if the insured sustains any bodily injury resulting solely and directly from accident caused by outward, violent and visible means, the insurance company would be liable to indemnify the insured," it said, adding that as per the insurance policy, only accidental death of the insured should be indemnified.
The judgment of the top court came on an appeal filed by Narbada Devi, the legal heir of a man employed as watchman with the Himachal Pradesh State Forest Corporation. The man died on a rainy cold night of October 7-8, 1997, in Chopal Panchayat of Shimla district. The post mortem indicated that the probable cause of death was asphyxiation caused by alcohol consumption and regurgitation of food into larynx.
"We find that the National Commission and the State Commission have rightly held that the deceased's death was not accidental, and that the insurance company would not be liable to settle the appellants' claim", said the top court.
The HPSFC had taken the insurance policy for its 3,008 employees from the New India Assurance Company under with coverage of Rs 1 lakh. As Narbada Devi's claim for the death of the man was rejected by the insurance company, she approached the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Shimla claiming insurance amount of Rs 2 lakh, along with interest and cost.