Death due to malaria in Mozambique, which accounts for 5 per cent of cases of malaria globally, cannot be considered an accident, the Supreme Court held Tuesday while deciding on a case related to insurance payout.
Dealing with a question whether death due to mosquito bite in Mozambique constitutes an accident, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said: “The claim under the policy is founded on the hypothesis that there is an element of uncertainty about whether or when a person would be the victim of a mosquito bite which is a carrier of a vector-borne disease.”
It said: “The submission is that being bitten by a mosquito is an unforeseen eventuality and should be regarded as an accident. We do not agree with this submission.”
The court delivered its judgement on an appeal filed by National Insurance Co Ltd challenging the verdict of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) which had ordered payment of the insurance claim to the family members of the person who had died of malaria in Mozambique.
The top court referred to the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2018, according to which Mozambique, with a population of 29.6 million people, accounts for 5 per cent cases of malaria globally.
The bench, while setting aside the NCDRC’s verdict, noted that claim under the insurance policy has been paid by the insurer.
“We direct in exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution that no recoveries shall be made,” the court said.
The man had taken a home loan from a bank in New Delhi in 2011 and got that loan insured from the firm which was obliged under the terms to pay the EMIs in case of his accidental death.
He then shifted to the African country and died of malaria there in 2012.
His family members moved the district consumer forum in West Bengal which directed the insurer firm to pay the EMIs holding that he had died an accidental death.
The insurance firm had challenged the order before the state consumer commission which affirmed the district forum’s order holding that sudden death due to mosquito bite in a foreign land was an accident.
The top court, in its verdict, observed that illness of encephalitis malaria through a mosquito bite cannot be considered as an accident as it was neither unexpected nor unforeseen.
“A person who suffers from flu or a viral fever cannot say that it is an accident. Of course, there is an element of chance or probability in contracting any illness,” the bench said.
“Even when viral disease has proliferated in an area, every individual may not suffer from it. Getting a bout of flu or a viral illness may be a matter of chance. But a person who gets the flu cannot be described as having suffered an accident…,” it noted.
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