The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Bajaj Allianz to submit before it Rs 200 crore in six weeks, responding to petitions filed by Maharashtra farmers seeking relief from the insurance company for crop loss.
A bench comprising Justices J K Maheshwari and Hima Kohli stayed a Bombay High Court order that asked the company to compensate 3.5 lakh farmers in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra for soybean crop damaged by heavy rains in 2020.
The Supreme Court’s notice said if Bajaj Allianz does not deposit the amount the stay will be vacated. The High Court’s Aurangabad bench had earlier said if the company does not pay, the Maharashtra government should compensate the farmers. The company has to comply with the state’s directives in such a case, the High Court had said.
The petitioners’ lawyer claimed that the insurance company was collecting profits on the premium pooled in from the farmers, the central government, and the state.
The court was told that the company received nearly Rs 500 as premium under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) from farmers, the state, and the centre but had released only a quarter of the amount towards claims. “It is submitted by the learned counsel for the petitioners that the agriculturists had paid a premium amount of Rs. 32.49 crores and the State Government had paid their share of Rs. 276.17 crores; the Central Government paid their share of Rs. 227.43 crores. The Insurance Company has received a total premium of Rs. 436.10 crores and distributed Rs. 84.68 crores to the poor agriculturists,” said the petition by farmers.
Bajaj Allianz’s lawyer said under the PMFBY farmers were required to intimate the company within 72 hours for compensation. The High Court rejected the argument. “In our view, the petitioners have thus made out a case for relief,” it held.