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HC asks insurance cos to change attitude towards disabled


Press Trust of India New Delhi
There has to be a "change in attitude" of public insurance companies that do not insure people disabled since birth on the ground that they are suffer from congenital anomalies, the Delhi High Court said Wednesday.
"You have to change your attitude. You are in the public sector," a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said to the General Insurance Council (GIC) after its lawyer told the court that insuring persons with congenital anomalies was a contractual matter between a company and the individual.
The observation by the court came while hearing a PIL seeking directions to the Centre, the IRDAI and insurance companies to remove congenital anomalies, like external or internal abnormality in the womb, from the list of general exclusions in the health or life insurance policies.
The petition, by Nipun Malhotra, has challenged the "arbitrary" and "illegal" mechanisms adopted by the IRDAI in denying the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) to seek insurance cover for themselves on the ground that their conditions are categorised under the scope of "congenital anomalies", as defined under a July 29, 2016 circular by the regulator.
Congenital anomalies are also known as birth defects and could be caused by single gene defects, chromosomal disorders, multifactorial inheritance, environmental teratogens and micronutrient deficiencies.
During the day's hearing, advocate Jai Dehadrai, appearing for Malhotra, urged the court to pass an interim order directing the insurance companies to provide insurance cover to his client who suffers from a locomotor disability.
Dehadrai said that Malhotra was in perfect health and was willing to undergo any test that is required for grant of the insurance cover.
The counsel for GIC opposed grant of any interim order saying that it was a contractual matter and the high court has in the past in a similar case held that courts should not intervene in such matters.
However, the bench said that the earlier high court decision was pertaining to congenital diseases and here the petitioner was in perfect health.
"That was a case where a person had a congenital disease. Here the person has an anomaly. His mobility is affected. He needs a wheelchair to move around. Otherwise he is in perfect health.
"You are in the public sector. When such a situation arises, you have to deal with it practically. You are a model statutory body. You have to change your attitude," the court said.
It gave time to GIC and the Life Insurance Council to file their responses to the PIL and listed the matter for further hearing on May 15.
Malhotra, a disability rights activist who suffers from locomotor disability from birth, has sought a direction to the IRDAI to remove the phrase 'congenital anomalies' from the standardised definition of the 2016 circulars.
He has also sought direction to take a relook at the exclusionary clauses in insurance contracts and ensure that insurance companies do not reject claims on the basis of exclusions related to congenital anomalies.
In his petition, he has said the effect of the circular and regulations was that PwDs found it next to impossible to seek insurance cover, when undergoing any health related complications.

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First Published: Feb 27 2019 | 6:40 PM IST

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