Flood losses: Don’t try to be smart, HC tells insurance companies

Flood losses: Don’t try to be smart, HC tells insurance companies

Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Tuesday rejected an application by insurance companies seeking modification of its order directing them to pay 50 percent of insured amount for policies above Rs 25 lakh and 95 percent for policies below Rs 25 lakh as interim relief to the flood-affected shopkeepers in the state.
“Don’t try to be very smart. I know (insurance) officers are smart. But it is time to be realistic,” a Division Bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey observed before rejecting an application filed by four insurance companies—National Insurance Company, New India Assurance Company, United India Insurance Company, and Oriental India Insurance Company.
The companies had sought modification of court’s direction on September 26. The court had directed the insurance companies that in case of sum insured upto Rs 25 lakh, the shopkeepers policy should be strictly followed as per the decision taken in General Insurers Public Sector Association (GIPSA) meeting that 95 percent of the sum insured will be dispersed.
In case of policies with sum assured above 25 lakh, the court had directed that 50 percent of the assured amount shall be released after receiving undertaking by the officers concerned of the insurance companies.
“All these are a party decision taken by GIPSA. The aforesaid argument took place when the matter was heard on (September 26). Therefore, no modification of order would be warranted,” the court said, rejecting the plea by the insurance companies.
However, the court granted liberty to the insurance companies through their counsel advocate J A Kawoosa to file fresh affidavit in compliance to the directions.
Meanwhile, the court also directed Bajaj Insurance Company to file status report by Wednesday. The direction followed after the company’s counsel advocate Javed Iqbal submitted that out of 3328 claims surveyed, 197 have been settled.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
The bench has already observed that the situation prevailing in Kashmir in the wake of floods demands immediate solution.
“We feel that further categorization is required to be kept in view while implementing the policy which involves sum insured beyond Rs 25 lakh. (One of the clauses) may not be applicable to shopkeepers who have stocks of eatables food items, cloths, shoes, readymade garments, hosiery, cosmetics and the provision stores,” the court had said.
The reason for the approach, court said, is that in Lal Chowk, Residency Road, Hari Singh High Street, Karan Nagar, Batwara, Shivpora and Batamaloo, large number of shops must have filed claims, and in all these areas the water was upto 18 feet.
Citing the policy decision taken by GIPSA with regard to the claims in flood-hit Kashmir, the court had said if the stock is totally damaged, a certificate by a Sarpanch, or a schoolteacher or any responsible person of the area would be sufficient.
The bench had not agreed with advocate N H Khuroo, counsel for United Insurance company, that it would apply only to cases were the stock has been totally washed away.
“In a catastrophe of such a magnitude as has been confronted by the insured in Srinagar and other parts of the sate like Poonch-Rajouri such type of literal construction needs to be avoided. The policy decision taken by GIPSA itself does not follow any linguistic approach. Therefore a humanistic approach is to be followed,” the bench had said.
Clarifying, it had said, if a building has collapsed with stocks and the flood waters entering the building then it may be not said that contents were totally washed way, yet it would be a case of complete loss of stock.
“In such a situation the linguistic approach by the company would require to be avoided and humanistic approach is required to be adopted and policy (decision taken in GIPSA meeting on September 17) requires to be implemented in letter and spirit,” the court said.

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