A division bench of Apex Court held that in a case of insurance policy holder dying intestate with some nomination, then the nomination only indicates the hand which is authorised to receive the amount, on the payment of which the insurer gets a valid discharge of its liability under the policy. The amount, however, can be claimed by the heirs of the assured in accordance with the law of succession governing them
From Para 4,
4. At the outset it should be mentioned that except the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Kesari Devi v. Dharma Devi AIR 1962 All 355 on which reliance was placed by the High Court in dismissing the appeal before it and the two decisions of the Delhi High Court in S. Fauza Singh v. Kuldip SinghAIR 1978 Del 276 and Uma Sehgal v. Dwarka Dass Sehgal AIR 1982 Del 36 in all other decisions cited before us the view taken is that the nominee under Section 39 of the Act is nothing more than an agent to receive the money due under a life insurance policy in the circumstances similar to those in the present case and that the money remains the property of the assured during his lifetime and on his death forms part of his estate subject to the law of succession applicable to him. The cases which have taken the above view are Ramballav Dhandhania v. Gangadhar NathmallAIR 1956 Cal 275; Life Insurance Corporation of India v. United Bank of India Ltd AIR 1970 Cal 513; D. Mohanavelu Mudaliar v. Indian Insurance and Banking Corporation Ltd., Salem6; Sarojini Amma v. Neelakanta Pillai AIR 1961 Ker 126; Atmaram Mohanlal Panchal v. Gunvantiben AIR 1977 Guj 134; Malli Dei v. Kanchan Prava Dei AIR 1973 Ori 83 and Lakshmi Amma v. Saguna BhagathILR 1973 Kant 827. Since there is a conflict of judicial opinion on the question involved in this case it is necessary to examine the above cases at some length.
The operative portion of the Judgment:
Sarbati Devi and Anr Vs Usha Devi on 06 Dec 1983
12. Moreover there is one other strong circumstance in this case which dissuades us from taking a view contrary to the decisions of all other High Courts and accepting the view expressed by the Delhi High Court in the two recent judgments delivered in the year 1978 and in the year 1982. The Act has been in force from the year 1938 and all along almost all the High Courts in India have taken the view that a mere nomination effected under Section 39 does not deprive the heirs of their rights in the amount payable under a life insurance policy. Yet Parliament has not chosen to make any amendment to the Act. In such a situation unless there are strong and compelling reasons to hold that all these decisions are wholly erroneous, the Court should be slow to take a different view. The reasons given by the Delhi High Court are unconvincing. We, therefore, hold that the judgments of the Delhi High Court in Fauza Singh case and in Uma Sehgal case do not lay down the law correctly. They are, therefore, overruled. We approve the views expressed by the other High Courts on the meaning of Section 39 of the Act and hold that a mere nomination made under Section 39 of the Act does not have the effect of conferring on the nominee any beneficial interest in the amount payable under the life insurance policy on the death of the assured. The nomination only indicates the hand which is authorised to receive the amount, on the payment of which the insurer gets a valid discharge of its liability under the policy. The amount, however, can be claimed by the heirs of the assured in accordance with the law of succession governing them.
Citations : [1983 SCALE 2 869], [1984 AIR SC 346], [1984 SCC 1 424], [1984 SCR 1 992], [1984 SCC TAX 59], [1984 ALR 10 268], [1984 ALJ 194], [1984 BLJR 21], [1984 ACC 2 377], [1984 ACJ 138], [1984 BLJR 32 210], [1984 COMPLJ SC 1 1], [1984 GLH 490], [1984 COMPCAS SC 55 214], [1984 UJ SC 866]
Other Sources :