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B.M. Mundkur Vs. Life Insurance Corporation of India and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 355 of 1971 {Against decree of city Civil Court, Madras in O.S. No. 2703 of 1969}
Judge
Reported inAIR1977Mad72
ActsSpecial Marriage Act; Indian Succession Act - Sections 33; Insurance Act, 1938 - Sections 44 and 44(2); Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956 - Sections 49(1)
AppellantB.M. Mundkur
RespondentLife Insurance Corporation of India and ors.
Cases ReferredMohanavelu Mudaliar v. Indian Insurance and Banking Corporation Ltd.
Excerpt:
.....renewal premium. the statue also prescribed the qualification which rendered the agent eligible to receive commission on such renewal premium. section 44(1) provides for the payment of the commission to the agent during his life-time only and does not contemplate the contingency of his death. it is section 44(2) which deals with the payment of commission to the heirs of the deceased for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive thus it was not the general law of inheritance which conferred title on the heirs of the deceased insurance agents to receive the commission on the renewal premium, but it was only the particular statutory provision, namely, section 44(2) which conferred the right on the heirs of the deceased agent to receive the..........premium. the statute also prescribed the qualification which rendered the agent eligible to receive commission on such renewal premium. section 44(1) provides for the payment of the commission to the agent during his lifetime only and does not contemplate the contingency of his death and the commission being paid to anybody even after his death. it is s. 44(2) which deals with the payment of commission to the heirs of deceased for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive. thus it was not the general law of inheritance which conferred title on the heirs of the deceased insurance agent to receive the commission on the renewal premium, but it was only the particular statutory provision, namely, section 44(2) which conferred the right on.....
Judgment:
1. The plaintiff in O. S. No. 2703 of 1969 on the file of the City Civil Court, Madras is the appellant herein. Most of the facts are not in controversy. One Mr. Srinivasa Rao was an insurance agent who died issueless on 8-6-1966. The second respondent herein is his widow. The appellant and the third and fourth respondents are said to be his brothers, and the fifth respondent is said to be his sister. At the time of his death, his mother, by name, Uma Bai, also survived, but she died on 29-6-1968. The said Srinivasa Rao had married the second respondent herein under the Special Marriage Act, and, accordingly, under Section 33(b) of the Indian Succession Act, on the death of the said Srinivasa Rao, the second respondent herein being his widow would be entitled to a half share, and the appellant and respondent 3 to 5 would be entitled to the remaining half share in the estate of Srinivasa Rao. It is adverted in the plaint that after the death of Srinivasa Rao, the second respondent took charge of the estate and that despite several requests she has not given the shares due to the appellant and respondents 3 to 5. The case of the appellant in the plaint was that, with regard to the commission payable on the renewal premiums, he sent a notice to the Life Insurance Corporation the first respondent herein, calling upon it to pay his share of the commission, but the said Corporation sent a reply stating that Section 44 of the Insurance Act, 1938, had been modified by the Central Government and made applicable to the Life Insurance Corporation, as per the notification of the Ministry of Finance, No. GSR 734 dated 23-8-1958, that as per the modified section the nominee of the agent was entitled to receive the commission, that the second respondent herein had been so nominated by the late Srinivasa Rao and that payments were being made to her and would continue to be made to her. It was thereafter that the present suit was instituted for a declaration that the appellant herein was entitled to as an heir of the deceased Sirinivasa Rao, to 1/8 share of the renewals commission and for an injunction restraining the first respondent herein from paying to the second respondent herein any amount in excess of her half share in the renewal commission and for directing the first and second respondents to pay to the appellant 1/8 of the commission which the appellant tentatively estimated at Rs. 5,000. In support of this claim of his, the appellant contended that Section 44(2) of the Insurance Act specifically directed payment only to the heirs of the deceased, and he put the first and second respondents to strict proof that the modification was made with the previous approval of the Central Government as contemplated under Section 49(1) of the Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956, and that the same was not inconsistent with the Act, regarding the payment of the amounts to the heirs of the deceased agent. It was also stated in paragraph 6 of the plaint that the appellant did not admit the alleged nomination in favour of the second respondent and put the first and second respondents to strict proof of the same.

2. There were different written statements filed by the first respondent and the second respondent. The first respondent solely relied on the notification of the Central Government applying Section 44(2) of the Insurance Act of 1938, to the Life Insurance Corporation, as amended by the said notification, contending that in view of that notification the commission was payable only to the second respondent, nominee, of the deceased Srinivasa Rao.

3. In the written statement filed by the second respondent herein, she contended that the suit was not maintainable and that, in view of the notification of the Central Government referred to above, she was entitled to receive the money. She also contended that on 22-6-1966 an agreement was entered into by the appellant, respondents 3 and 4 and their mother to the effect that the second respondent shall be entitled to administer the estate of Srinivasa Rao, and they had also waived their rights, if any, in favour of the second respondent, and that the second respondent, had agreed to pay large sums of money to the other members of the family. Respondent 3 to 5 supported the appellant herein.

4. On the pleadings of the parties, the following issues were framed for trial--

1. Whether this Court has no jurisdiction to try the suit?

2. Is the plaintiff entitled to a share in the renewal Commission?

3. What is the effect of the nomination made by the deceased?

4. Whether the plaintiff has waived his rights?

5. Is the discharge of the second defendant valid under Section 44 of the Insurance Act?

6. Is the plaintiff entitled to the declaration and injunction prayed for?

7. To what relief are the parties entitled?

5. The learned IV Assistant Judge of the City Civil Court, Madras, by his judgment and decree dated 23-3-1970, held that, under the nomination effected by Srinivasa Rao, in accordance with Section 44(2) of the Insurance Act, 1938, as amended by the Government of India Notification referred to above, it was the second respondent who was entitled to receive the money. The trial Court also held that, in any event, under Ex. B-1 dated 22-6-1966, being the Photostat copy of the agreement referred to by the second respondent herein, the other parties to the agreement had given up their rights to claim renewal commission and had given that right exclusively to the second respondent herein and on that ground held that the second respondent was entitled to receive the commission from the Life Insurance Corporation of India; with the result that the suit instituted by the appellant was dismissed. It is against this dismissal the present appeal has been filed.

6. Mr. M. R. Narayanaswami, learned counsel for the appellant, put forward the following four points in support of the appeal:

1. The appellant in the plaint had put the first and second defendants to strict proof of the nomination said to have been made by Srinivasa Rao in favour of the second respondent herein and had stated that he did not admit the alleged nomination, and that, notwithstanding this, the Court below had not given a finding on this question.

2. Section 44(2) of the Act, as applied to the Life Insurance Corporation of India, with the amendment made by the Government of India notification already referred to, did not have the effect of conferring a right on the second respondent to receive the renewal commission for herself and that it merely constituted the second respondent an agent for receiving the money from the Life Insurance Corporation on behalf of the estate of Srinivasa Rao.

3. Ex. B-1 was not admissible in evidence.

4. Even if Ex. B-1, was admissible in evidence, the document did not have the effect of the appellant and the others giving up their rights to the renewal commission and conferring an exclusive right on the second respondent to receive the renewal commission.

7. I shall deal with these points in that order.

7-A. As far as the first point is concerned, there is one formidable hurdle which the appellant has to cross. In paragraph 8 of the judgment of the trial Court, it is stated--

"It is not disputed that the deceased Srinivasa Rao has nominated the second defendant to receive the commission after his death".

In view of this statement contained in the judgment, it is not open to the appellant to question the correctness of the said statement in this appeal. It may be that, having put forward the contention in the plaint that the appellant did not admit the nomination and put respondents 1 and 2 to strict proof of the same, the appellant gave up the objection in the course of the trial, and did not dispute the existence of the nomination, as contended for by respondents 1 and 2. This inference derives further strength from the fact that there is not even a ground in the memorandum of grounds of appeal filed before this Court in the present appeal, which contains as many as 37 grounds, to the effect that the said statement contained in the judgment of the trial Court was erroneous. On the other hand, ground No. 4 therein would appear to proceed on the basis of the correctness of the nomination of the second respondent herein. The said ground is as follows:

"The lower Court should have held that the second defendant, who is the nominee is nothing more than an agent to receive the money which remains as the property of the deceased, forming part of the estate".

As I pointed out already, this ground proceeds on the basis that the second respondent herein is the nominee, which must be based on the concession that the nomination was there validly made. In view of his position, and in view of the law laid down by this Court as well as by the Supreme Court that the correctness of such a statement contained in the judgment of the Court cannot be challenged in appeal, without the party or counsel moving the very Court which made the statement in the judgment at the first instance, for correction thereof, if that was a mistake. Mr. Narayanaswami, once realised this position, did not pursue the point further.

8. As far as the second point is concerned which is the most important and vital point of controversy in this appeal, if the appellant loses on this point, it will be unnecessary to consider points 3 and 4, and therefore, I shall deal with this point now. Section 38 of the Insurance Act, 1938 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) deals with the assignment or transfer of insurance policies. Section 39 deals with nomination by a policy holder, and the language of Section 39(1) makes it absolutely clear that the nomination contemplated therein was nomination to receive the money secured by the policy in the even of the death of the insured. There are detailed provisions made in Section 39 which provides for the registration of the nomination with the insurer, subsequent cancellation or change of such nomination and giving notice in writing of such cancellation or change to the insurer. Section 44 of the Act deals with renewal commission or commission or renewal premium. S. 44(1) provides that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any contract between any person and an insurance agent providing for the forfeiture or stoppage of payment of renewal commission to such insurance agent, no such person shall, in respect of life insurance business transacted in India, refuse payment to an insurance agent of commission due to him on renewal premium under the agreement by reason only of the termination of his agreement, except for fraud. There are three provisions to this sub-section, which refer to the qualifications which the Insurance agent should possess for being eligible to receive the renewal commission. Sub-section (2) of this section, which is important, is as follows:--

"Any commission payable to an insurance agent under the provisions of Clauses (b) and (c) of the proviso to sub-section (1) shall, notwithstanding the death of the agent, continue to be payable to his heirs for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive."

Thus it will be seen that sub-section (1) deals with the payment of commission on renewal premium to the insurance agent himself during his lifetime even after the termination of the agreement under which he was entitled to such commission and sub-section (2) provides for the continued payment of such commission to the heirs of the insurance agent on his death for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive. When the Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956, was passed, under which the first respondent was constituted, Section 43 of that Act provided for the application of certain provisions of the Insurance Act to the Corporation. Sub-section (1) of Section 43 enumerated certain sections of the Insurance Act which shall apply to the Corporation as they applied to any other insurer, and Sec. 44 is not one of the sections mentioned in Section 43(1). Therefore Section 44 to which I have drawn attention did not apply to the Life Insurance Corporation straightway by virtue of Section 43(1) of the Life Insurance Corporation Act. Section 43(2) conferred power on the Central Government to direct by notification in the Official Gazette that the sections enumerated therein shall apply to the Corporation subject to such conditions and modifications as may be specified in the notification, and one of the sections enumerated in sub-section (2) of Sec. 43 is Section 44. The Central Government would appear to have applied Section 44 with some modifications, which are not relevant to this appeal, to the Life Insurance Corporation in the notification of the Government of India in the Ministry of Finance No. GSR 734, dated 23-3-1958. However, a modification was made to this notification by G. S. R. 285 issued by the Government of India in the Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs) on 1-3-1962, and published in the Gazette of India dated 10-3-1962. This notification provided that to sub-section (2) of Section 44 of the Insurance Act, 1938, as made applicable to the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the following proviso shall be added--

"Provided that, where the agent has nominated in writing any person including social or charitable institution to receive the commission after his death and the nomination is registered in the records of the Corporation, the Commission shall be paid to the person so nominated, unless, before the payment is made, the nomination has been varied or cancelled and notice in writing of such variation or conciliation has been delivered to the Corporation."

9. Thus, after this amendment, made by the Government of India, in 1962, Section 44(2) of the Insurance Act, 1938, as applicable to the Life Insurance Corporation of India, read as follows--

"S. 44(2) Any commission payable to an Insurance agent under the provisions of Clauses (b) and (c) of the proviso to sub-section (1) shall, notwithstanding the death of the agent continue to be payable to his heirs for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive:

Provided that, where the agent has nominated in writing any person including social or charitable institutions to receive the commission after his death and the nomination is registered in the records of the Corporation, the commission shall be paid to the person so nominated unless, before the payment is made, the nomination has been varied or cancelled and notice in writing of such variation or cancellation has been delivered to the Corporation".

10. Thus it is statutory provision which is the subject-matter of construction in this Court, Mr. M. R. Narayanaswami, learned counsel for the appellant, relying upon certain decisions of Courts, in particular, the decision of a Bench of this Court in Mohanavelu Mudaliar v. Indian Insurance and Banking Corporation Ltd., Salem, dealing with the case of a nomination under Section

39 of the Act, for receiving the insured amount, contended that the said decision had held that such a nomination did not have the effect of conferring a beneficial interest on the nominee to the moneys which such nominee was authorised to receive, that the moneys formed part of the estate of the deceased, that the principle laid down in that decision must be applied to the present case also in respect of the nomination to receive the commission the renewal premium, that so applied the second respondent herein did not acquire any beneficial interest in the commission on the renewal premium, that it formed part of the estate of the late Srinivasa Rao and that the second respondent would be entitled only to a half share in the said commission. The question for consideration is whether such a contentions is correct or not. After a careful consideration of the statutory provisions as well as the judgment referred to above, I have come to the conclusion that the principle laid down in that decision would not apply to the construction of Sec. 44(2) in this case. The learned Judge of this Court in that decision considered the scope and effect of the assignment of an Insurance policy under Section 38 of the Act and the nomination made under Section 39 of the Act. After referring to certain English decisions and certain principles, Govinda Menon J. observed:

"The result of the above discussion seems to me to be this: If the construction placed upon the declaration is that a trust has been created under the provisions of the Married Women's Property Act, the beneficiary would take the assured amount free of all the liabilities of the insured and, if it is construed as a mere nomination, the nominee would have no more right than to receive the amount subject to all the liabilities as if the disposition was by means of a testamentary instrument. In the case now question I agree with my learned brother that nomination can only be construed as a testament which would be subject to all the liabilities which the assured has to discharge. That being the case the decision of the lower Court is correct and the appeal must be dismissed."

This was the view taken by the other learned Judge also. In that case also the nomination was made in favour of the wife and the reference to the provisions contained in the Married Women's Property Act was made in view of sub-section (7) of Section 39 of the Ac t, which stated that the provisions of Section 39 shall not apply to any policy of life insurance to which Section 6 of the Married Women's Property Act, 1874 applied or had at any time applied.

10-A. Though there are certain difficulties in fully understanding the scope of this decision, in view of the language used in the judgment, still I am of the opinion that the decision, holding that the nomination made under Sec. 39 constituted the nominee only an agent to receive the sum assured on behalf of the estate of the deceased and that it did not confer any beneficial interest on the nominee himself or herself to the money in question, will have no application to the present case. There are vital differences between the nomination contemplated under Section 39 of the Act and the nomination contemplated under the proviso to Section 44(2) of the Act. In the first place, the sum assured, with which alone Sec. 39 was concerned, was to be paid in the event of the death of the assured under the terms of the contract entered into between the insurer and the assured and consequently it was the contractual right which remained vested in the insured with reference to which the nomination happened to be made. It should be pointed out that the nomination as well as the liability on the part of the insurer to pay the sum assured become effective simultaneously, namely, at the moment of the death of the assured. So long as he was alive, the money was not payable to him, in the case of a whole life policy, and equally, having regard to the language of Section 39(1) of the Act, the nominee's right to receive the money arose only on the death of the assured. Section 39 itself did not deal with the title to the money assured, which was to be paid by the insurer to the nominee who was bound to give discharge to the insurer. It was in this context that the Court took the view that the title remained with the estate of the deceased and, therefore, with the heirs of the deceased, that the nomination did not in any way affect the title and that it merely clothed the nominee with the right to receive the amount from the insurer.

11. On the other hand, the provisions and purport of Section 44 of the Act are different. In the first place, under Section 44(1) it was a statutory right conferred on the agent to receive the commission on the renewal premium, notwithstanding the termination of the agreement between the agent and the insurer, which provided for the payment of such commission on the renewal premium. The statute also prescribed the qualification which rendered the agent eligible to receive commission on such renewal premium. Section 44(1) provides for the payment of the commission to the agent during his lifetime only and does not contemplate the contingency of his death and the commission being paid to anybody even after his death. It is S. 44(2) which deals with the payment of commission to the heirs of deceased for so long as such commission would have been payable had such insurance agent been alive. Thus it was not the general law of inheritance which conferred title on the heirs of the deceased insurance agent to receive the commission on the renewal premium, but it was only the particular statutory provision, namely, Section 44(2) which conferred the right on the heirs of the deceased agent to receive the commission on the renewal premium. In other words, the right of the heirs to receive the commission on renewal premium does not arise under any law of succession and it is a right directly conferred on the heirs by Section 44(2) of the Act, even though who the heirs of the deceased insurance agent are will have to be ascertained under the law of succession applicable to him. Thus the statute which conferred such a right on the heirs is certainly competent to provide for an exception in certain cases and take away such a right from the heirs; and the proviso which has been introduced by the Government of India notification 1962 has done exactly this in taking away the right of the heirs conferred under the main part of Section 44(2), in the event of the agent, during his lifetime, making a nomination in favour of a particular person and not cancelling or altering that nomination subsequently. If the statute itself was competent to confer such a right for the first time on the heirs of the deceased agent, it is indisputable that the statute could take away that right under stated circumstances. In this case, that right has been taken away by the proviso to Section 44(2) introduced by the Government of India Notification, 1962, in case a nomination had been made as contemplated by the said proviso. It is settled that, according to the ordinary rules of construction, the effect of an excepting or qualifying proviso is to except out of the preceding part of the enactment or to qualify something enacted therein, which but for the proviso would be within it. As I pointed out already the main part of Section 44(2) confers a right on the heirs to receive the commission, and the proviso to that sub-section enables the agent to make a nomination to receive the commission after his death, which would have the effect of taking away that right from the heirs themselves.

12. Here again, Mr. Narayanaswami brought in the analogy of the nomination under Section 39 and contended that, though the second respondent might be entitled to receive the money from the first respondent, she did not have title to the money by virtue of the nomination itself. This argument overlooks the fact that it is Section 44(2) which confers the right on the heirs and that the proviso in question constitutes a qualification to that section. Apart from that, the very language of Section 44(2) also would support my conclusion in this behalf. I have extracted Section 44(2) before its amendment by the Government of India notification 1962, and after its amendment also. The main part of sub-section (2) of Section 44 states that the commission shall continue to be payable to his heirs. On the other hand, the proviso states that, where a nomination has been made, which has not been cancelled or varied, the commission shall be paid to the person so nominated. Therefore, having regard to the ordinary rules of construction, whatever right or capacity the heirs had under sub-section (2) of Section 44, the nominee will have under the proviso to Section 44(2). It cannot be contended that under the main part of Section 44(2) the heirs will receive the money as owners of the money, but under the proviso to Section 44(2) the nominee will receive the money not as owner but merely as an agent on behalf of somebody else, for such a contention would be opposed to all recognised rules of construction of statutory provisions along with their provisos.

13. There is a further indication in the language of the proviso itself to show that the nominee contemplated by the proviso is a person entitled to the money itself and not merely entitled to receive the money on behalf of the estate of deceased. The proviso refers to social or charitable institutions also being nominated to receive the commission. The very idea of the inclusion of social or charitable institutions among the nominees clearly contemplates a nomination under which the money itself shall be paid to such institution as owner thereof, and it could not have been contemplated that such social or charitable institutions were constituted merely as agents to receive the money on behalf of the estate of the deceased with an obligation to pay it over to such estate. As a matter of fact, Mr. Narayanaswami himself realised the difficulty posed by the proviso, when it included social and charitable institutions among the persons who could be nominated, when he put forward the contention that the nomination contemplated by the proviso has the effect of constituting the nominee only an agent to receive the money on behalf of the estate of the deceased. Consequently, I am of the opinion that Section 44(2) as amended by the Government of India Notification, 1962, conferred a right on the late Srinivasa Rao to nominate the second respondent herein to receive the commission as owner thereof, and in view of the nomination made by the late Srinivasa Rao in this behalf, the second respondent nominee was absolutely entitled to receive the commission from the first respondent herein in her own right. I may also point out that the learned counsel for the appellant did not contend that the notification issued by the Government of India was itself in any way illegal. Therefore, my conclusion on the second point is that the second respondent is entitled to receive the money in her own right and that the first respondent is justified in paying it to the second respondent and stating that it would continue to pay the money to her alone.

14. In view of this conclusion of mine on the second point it is unnecessary to consider points 3 and 4 enumerated by me above.

15. Under these circumstances, the appeal fails and is dismissed. Having regard to the question of law considered by me for the first time in this appeal, I do not make any order as to costs.

16. Appeal dismissed.


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