The District Consumer Forum, Bandra granted relief to the families of 14 farmers who died in accidents and directed insurance company ICICI Lombard to pay the insurance amount, with interest, under the government’s personal accident insurance scheme for farmers.
The state government had, in 2005, started a personal accident insurance scheme for farmers. The scheme was carried out by ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company for 15 months till April 2006.
According to the insurance policy, a farmer’s family would get Rs1 lakh compensation in case of accidental death and Rs50,000 or Rs 1 lakh in case he is handicapped, depending on the nature of disability. The government was entrusted with the work to mediate with the farmers and the insurance company.
In 2005 and 2006, 15 farmers died in separate incidents. Their families had, under the scheme, approached the revenue department, seeking benefits of the scheme. The company, however, rejected the claim citing reason ranging from claims being filed after the time period expired and claims not supported with documentary proof.
The families then moved the complaint before the district consumer forum. The 15 complaints were filed in 2009 and the forum condoned the delay and heard the complaints. While opposing the complaints, the company said reiterated that there was no documentary proof to suggest that the registered farmers were, at the time of their death, connected with farming activities.
The company also contended that the farmers are not consumers according to the definition of the Consumer Protection Act. The district forum, however, disregarded these contentions and observed that it was the government department’s duty to submit the required documents.
“In this case, it is a case of deficiency of services on the part of the company. Rejection because of a delay or mistake on the part of the government department is not ethical,” the forum observed.
The forum directed the company to pay the claim amount of Rs1 lakh with 9% interest to fourteen applicants. The forum, however, rejected one application because it was proved that the farmer died because of a possible suicide and not an accident.
Company officials said are considering moving an appeal before the state consumer commission.