Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance Can't Foist Pension Plan on Policyholder, NCDRC Asks To Refund Rs2.54 Lakh Maturity Amount
Moneylife Digital Team 06 June 2024
While upholding orders issued by fora below, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) reiterated that Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance Co Ltd cannot forcibly impose on the policyholder a pension plan utilising two-thirds of the matured amount of the policy fund for purchasing annuity, for regular pension. NCDRC directed Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance to refund the maturity amount of Rs2.54 lakh with an interest of 9%pa (per annum) from the date of filing the complaint and pay Rs10,000 compensation for mental agony and litigation costs. 
 
In an order earlier this week, the NCDRC bench of Dr Inder Jit Singh (presiding member) says, "The State Commission has given a well-reasoned order and we find no reason to interfere with its findings... we find no illegality or material irregularity or jurisdictional error in the order of the state commission, hence the same is upheld. Accordingly, the revision petition is dismissed."
 
On 28 March 2004, Gurugram-based Anita Dahiya bought the 'Flexi Secure Life Retirement Plan' from Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance, whereby the vesting age was stated to be 55 years and the annual premium was mentioned as Rs10,000 for 14 years.
 
She paid her last premium of Rs10,000 on 28 March 2017 for the policy maturing on 28 March 2018. Since she did not want her husband and nominee, Jagbeer Singh Dahiya, to take benefit of the pension or receive the maturity amount, on 27 August 2018, Ms Dahiya emailed the insurer seeking payment of the maturity amount. 
 
Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance sent her the maturity form, which she submitted to the insurer's branch, along with the original policy and other required documents for getting her due matured amount. The insurer assured Ms Dahiya that the maturity amount would be transferred to her bank account in five to six days. She visited the branch office of Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance several times but did not receive the payment. 
 
Ms Dahiya then filed a complaint before the Gurgaon district consumer disputes redressal forum alleging deficiency in service. In an order on 7 December 2018, the district forum allowed the complaint and directed Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance to refund the maturity amount of Rs2,54,000 along with 9%pa interest from the date of filing the complaint till its realisation and pay Rs10,000 compensation for mental agony, harassment as well as litigation expenses to Ms Dahiya.
 
Aggrieved by the order, Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance filed an appeal before the Haryana state consumer disputes redressal commission. While affirming the order passed by the district forum, the state commission dismissed the appeal on 7 August 2023.
 
Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance then approached NCDRC with its revision appeal. It contended that the basic nature of the policy is a pension plan and in no manner any life coverage has been provided in this plan. "All the amounts which were received by the insurer from Ms Dahiya are invested in ULIP as per the instructions of the policyholder after deducting the necessary expenses and the entire fund value upon maturing in no manner whatsoever could be given to the policyholder as it would entirely change the nature of the plan."
 
Further, the counsel for the insurer argued that Ms Dahiya was categorically informed that the vesting date given in the policy was 28 March 2018; therefore, as per policy terms and conditions, she could only receive one-third of the matured amount and the remaining two-thirds of the matured amount could only be used in the manner as enunciated in the policy.   
 
The counsel for Ms Dahiya contended that once Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance had received the maturity form with documents, there arose no occasion for it to plead that she had not exercised her option in furtherance of the letter dated 6 July 2018 sent to her. "Receipt of documents along with maturity form by the insurer would legally imply that Ms Dahiya has in fact, exercised her option to obtain the matured amount of Rs254,000."
 
He further contended that Ms Dahiya had no knowledge of the letter sent on 6 July 2018 and that Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance did not place a record of this letter on record. "The relevancy of the letter has already been discussed in the order passed by the state commission, who had held that the documents already available on record would suffice the decision of the appeal." 
 
"If Ms Dahiya has not opted for a pension plan on the maturity of the policy, in that situation, any such plan cannot be forcibly foisted upon her as observed by the district forum in its order," the counsel submitted.
 
After going through the orders of the state commission, district forum, other relevant records and rival contentions of the parties, the bench of Dr Singh noted that there are concurrent findings of the fora below against the insurance company.
 
Referring to a para from the state commission order about paying one-third of the maturity amount and investing the remaining amount in a policy fund for purchasing an annuity for regular pension, he says, "This contention of the insurer has no formidable base at all. Reason is obvious. It is admitted stance of Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance in its written version that Ms Dahiya did not opt for a pension plan on the maturity of the policy. If she has not opted for a pension plan on the maturity of the policy, then any such pension plan cannot be forcibly foisted upon her."
 
"Receipt of documents along with maturity form by the insurer would legally imply that complainant has, in fact, exercised her option to obtain maturity amount of Rs254,000," NCDRC noted.
 
While dismissing the petition, Dr Singh from NCDRC directed Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance to refund to Ms Dahiya Rs2.54 lakh, the maturity amount with 9%pa interest and pay Rs10,000 compensation for mental agony, harassment as well as litigation expenses. 
 
(Revision Petition No2691 of 2023 Date: 3 June 2024)
 
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