Narendra Kawde, Member:
1. Complainant is a company dealing in distribution, sales and service of electrical power tools. The complainant has been subscribing to the insurance policy for extending insurance cover to the goods stored in the Godown. Initially, sum insured was Rs.30 Lakhs which was subsequently reduced to Rs.15 Lakhs and as there was change of business premises, change was intimated with reduction in sum insured. The opponent/National Insurance Company (in short âInsurance Company) acted upon the request of the complainant/company and reduced the sum insured to Rs.15 Lakhs. Such a change of address was intimated by communication dated 13/01/1996. The complainant continued to remind and issued fresh communication on 24/03/1996 requesting for refund of excess premium paid on account of reduced sum insured. However, there was no response from the Insurance Company. Said Insurance Policy was further renewed for a period from 10/11/1996 to 09/11/1997 with increased sum insured of Rs.21 Lakhs. Policy covers burglary and also compensation on account of death of workmen.
2. On the night of 21/08/1997 i.e. during validity of the Insurance Policy, burglary took place in the insured premises of the complainant which was noticed after opening the shop only on the next day morning i.e. 22/08/1997. F.I.R. was lodged. Police have investigated the matter. Insurance Company was duly informed about the loss on account of burglary estimating to Rs.10 Lakhs. Since there was heavy rain on the day of burglary the intimation was given on 25/08/1997. Insurance Company appointed authorized Surveyor. Surveyor carried out the survey after going through the record and field visit. All the details of the changed address of the Godown were forwarded to the Surveyor including copy of Leave and Licence agreement. Surveyor estimated the loss to the extent of Rs.6,83,400/- by submitting his Survey Report to the Insurance Company. Certificate to the extent of loss showing net liability to Rs.6,83,438/- issued by Authorised Surveyor is available on record. However, detailed survey report is not traceable (not filed by the parties). In spite of constant persuasion for settlement of claim, Insurance Company did not settle the claim and sent a letter dated 28/04/2000 taking recourse that change of address of insured premises was not intimated by the complainant. This is the only ground taken out by the Insurance Company for not settling of the claim payable under the Insurance Policy. Aggrieved with the same, this consumer complaint has been filed claiming amount of Rs.10,52,160/- with interest @ 18% p.a. from the date of claim and ancillary relief of Rs.1 Lakh for harassment.
3. Insurance Company appeared and filed written version contesting the claim. First and foremost defence taken out by the Insurance Company is that the insurance cover was for electrical fittings, any articles, things/stock pertaining to insured and further it is stated that the Surveyor has applied his expert mind to the facts and figures provided by the complainant and also carefully applied yardsticks of insurance coverage by way of indemnity. Insurance Company, thus, has not committed any error in not settling the insurance claim resulting into deficiency of service to the complainant. Another ground made out by Insurance Company is that the alleged incident of burglary occurred on 21/08/1997 whereas the consumer complaint has been filed in the year 2001. Therefore, the complaint not filed within time limit is barred by limitation and the Insurance Company heavily relied on the citation of Honble Apex Court in the case of Kandimalla Raghavaiah and Co. V/s. National Insurance Co.Ltd. III(2009) CPJ 75 (SC).
4. On going through the correspondence exchanged between the parties, it is clear that main dispute is about intimation of change of address of the insured premises while subscribing to the Insurance Policy and since, this issue has not been sorted out, the claim is still pending from the date of incident i.e. 21/08/1997. Now, it is the contention of the complainant that since they are regularly subscribing to Insurance Policy; first time by letter dated 13/01/1996, the new address was intimated to the Insurance Company which is available on record in the complaint compilation. Said letter is duly received and in token of receipt, Insurance Company affixed its stamp. Subsequently, on 12/10/1997 another letter referring to the earlier letter of intimating change of address which was delivered to the Insurance Company is also available on record. Said letter has also been duly received and the opponent has affixed its stamp against receipt of said letter. There appears to be another Insurance Policy in addition what is relied upon by the complainant. The policy document is not available on record. It is the contention of the complainant supported by affidavit of evidence that the change of address of insured premises though intimated well in advance by first letter dated 13/01/1996 i.e. prior to renewal of the policy under discussion, the Insurance Company has not changed the address in the renewed policy. Additionally, Deed of Dissolution of Partnership Firm and other supporting document like Leave and Licence Agreement of new address though supplied to the Insurance Company, no action whatsoever to decide the claim has been taken since the date of filing of insurance claim.
5. We heard Learned Counsel Mr.A.V. Patwardhan for the complainant and Learned Counsel Mr.Sanjay Mhatre for the opponent/Insurance Company.
6. On careful assessment of documents available on record, we find that the first change of address was intimated on 13/01/1996 to the Insurance Company though in the context of reduction of sum assured in the then existing policy. Subsequent correspondence also reflects the changed address of the insured premises supported by copy of Leave and Licence Agreement. Insurance Companys communication available on record pertains only to non-intimation of change of address of the new location of insured premises. No other ground whatsoever is resorted to by the Insurance Company and since the Insurance Company is not satisfied with the repeated explanation submitted by the complainant about intimation of change of address, claim is still pending for unreasonable time though the Insurance Company was at liberty to reject the claim or accept the same on the basis of whatever documents submitted and available on record.
7. Issue of limitation as raised by the Insurance Company, it is clarified that the State Commission in the case of of M/s.Jyoti Impex V/s. The New Indian Assurance Company Ltd. and Ors., has explained the occurrence of cause of action in different circumstances while reckoning the period to consider the date of cause of action. In the case on hand, Insurance Company has neither repudiated the claim nor accepted the insurance claim within reasonable period of six months from the date of filing of insurance claim. The claim has been filed in the year 1997 and the case has now come up for final hearing before us in 2013 which taken up on Board for hearing and disposal from sine-die list. By any stretch of imagination, pendency of claim for more than 15 years is not at all acceptable. Since, there was no proper response from the Insurance Company, the complainant has filed this consumer complaint in anticipation on 09/05/2001.
8. The last letter on record issued by the Insurance Company seeking clarification about intimation of change of address is dated 28/04/2000 and that the complainant has been continuously taking up the matter explaining the change of address by first communication dated 13/01/1996, yet the Insurance Company on the same pretext kept the claim pending. Since cause of action is bundle of facts as a settled principle of law, therefore, last letter of Insurance Company dated 28/04/2000 is construed to be a cause of action accrued in favour of the complainant. The present consumer complaint has been filed on 09/05/2001. Therefore, the complaint is not barred by limitation as alleged by the Insurance Company. Exchange of correspondence is detrimental which goes in favour of the complainant to accrue cause of action as held by the Honble Apex Court in the matter M/s.Transport Corporation of India Ltd. V/s. M/s.Veljan Hydrair Ltd., decided on 22/02/2007.
9. Policy document though not available on record yet not dispatched by Insurance Company, the Surveyor issued a certificate quantifying the loss. All these documents are to be interpreted in favour of the complainant since in the Consumer Fora matters are decided considering the preponderance of probabilities. In this case, probability heavily tilts in favour of the complainant to maintain the balance of equity.
10. In view of aforesaid discussions, we find that the complainant has made out a case of deficiency of service on the part of the Insurance Company in not settling the insurance claim for unduly long period. Quantum of loss arrived at by the authorized Surveyor is Rs.6,83,400/-. Awarding the said quantum of compensation with reasonable rate of interest will meet the ends of justice. Amount of compensation claimed by the complainant for mental agony is not justified as complainant is a Company. We hold accordingly and pass the following order :-
-: ORDER :-
1. Complaint is partly allowed.
2. Opponent/Insurance Company is directed to pay Rs.6,83,400/- to the complainant with interest @ 9% p.a. from the date of filing of consumer complaint i.e. 09/05/2001 within sixty days from the date of receipt of this order, failing which penal interest @ 3% p.a. shall be payable on the amount ordered to be paid.
3. Rest of the prayers of the complaint stands rejected as not specifically admitted.
4. Parties to bear their own costs.
5. Copies of the order be furnished to the parties.