In a major reprieve for eight widows of farmers from Solapur district, a city consumer forum has directed ICICI Lombard to pay them an amount of Rs1 lakh each under the Farmers Insurance Policy taken by the Government of Maharashtra.
The widows, hailing from various tehsils of Solapur district, will also get an additional amount of around Rs27,000, since the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has also directed the insurance company to pay interest on the amount at the rate of 9% per annum from March 2009, when the widows had filed the complaint.
About one crore people in the state are engaged in the farming sector and for the benefit of the huge population of marginal farmers, the state government has taken Farmers Insurance Policy. The state is paying premium on the policies for providing insurance cover to the farmers, and in case of accidental death of the earning member, the family becomes entitled to the insurance amount.
For availing benefits of the scheme, all the eight widows had submitted their claims before the concerned revenue officers after their husband died in accidents between 2005 and 2006. However, ICICI Lombard either rejected or refused to entertain the claims primarily on the ground that they were submitted belatedly.
After the widows approached the consumer forum, the insurance company took a stand that they were not consumers within the meaning stipulated under the Consumer Protection Act, 1984, since they had not paid any premium.
The bench of forum president JL Deshpande and member Deepa Bidnurkar rejected the objection. The forum held that although the complainant widows had not paid any premium to the company, they were beneficiaries of the scheme under which the state government is paying the premium on their behalf.
The consumer forum concluded that rejection or refusal to decide the claims amounted to deficiency on part of ICICI Lombard and directed the company to pay the amount due to all the eight widows along with the interest at the rate of 9% per annum from the date of filing of their complaints.