Delhi HC asks Postal Life Insurance to provide equal coverage without charging extra premium from employees with disabilities
The petitioner, through a PIL, sought parity in the maximum sum assured and premium charged from disabled employees in comparison to non-disabled employees. The petitioner informed the Delhi high court that postal Life Insurance Policy is issued by the respondents for the benefit of employees of Post and Telecommunication Department and other government employees and that the same makes a distinction between disabled and non-disabled employees; whereas non-disabled employees can avail a maximum insurance of 5 lacs, the maximum sum insured for disabled employees is 1 lac only; not only so, the disabled employees have to pay an extra premium also. Subsequently the postal life insurance issued a notification stating that the maximum limit of insurance for disabled persons had been brought at par with non-disabled persons. However, they continued to charging extra premium from the persons with disabilities. They filed a number of affidavits to that effect and argued that as regards the issue of extra premium it is submitted that the Insurance Policy is a contract between the insurer and the insured. It identifies the insured, the insuring company, risks covered, policy period and premium amount. The Insurance Policy is binding on both the insurer and insured. In the insurance business a pool is created through contributions made by persons seeking to protect themselves from common risk. Premium is collected by insurance companies which also act as trustee to the pool. Any loss to the insured in case of happening of an uncertain event is paid out of this pool. It works on the principle of risk sharing. Therefore prejudice would be caused to the normal insured persons in case of any casualty of the disabled persons. As disabled persons are more prone to accidental risks as compared to normal persons and the amount which is to be paid to the family of the deceased would be paid out of the same pool. the extra premium payable by the disabled person is marginally different from extra premium payable by normal persons. further regarding the extra premium demanded for the category of Disabled / differently abled persons, the extent of handicap differs from one person to another. Hence it has been decided that the premium shall be decided upon the health profile of the individual proponent. In response the petitioner argued that the extra premium clause has no scientific base nor can be justified by any legal enactment. On the contrary, such a stand alone stipulation for Persons with Disabilities in form of a special scheme in the Postal Life Insurance for Government employees is discriminatory, non-inclusive, unjust and violates principles of natural justice of equity and fairness and above all it runs against the mandate of the Persons with Disability Act and the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities that India is a proud signatory to. Further, it specifically violates Articles 3 and 25(e) of the Convention. Accepting the rationale of PLI to the extent that any loss to the insured in case of happening of an uncertain event is paid out of this pool and that it works on the Principle of risk sharing. However, the petitioner strongly denied that prejudice would be caused to the normal insured persons in case of any casualty of the disabled persons as disabled persons are more prone to accidental risks as compared to normal persons and the amount which is to be paid to the family of the deceased would be paid out of the same pool. On the contrary, the petitioner submitted that there is no empirical study or data to support or substantiate such a baseless, false & biased view which only reinforces the stereotypes about persons with disability and their proneness to accident. Therefore it is highly discriminatory hence, void in law and against the Constitution of India & UNCRPD. It is further submitted that right to equality and non-discrimination are inalienable rights which cannot be taken away by any contract. Furthermore, charging extra premium from employees with disabilities is a direct discrimination with them on the basis of disability which is in direct conflict with Article 2 of UNCRPD. The justification of health profile put forward by the respondents is faulty for they seem to treat disability as a negative health profile. It is submitted that living with disability is distinct from suffering from a disease, while the respondent seem to consider both as synonymous. An employee with visual impairment or with hearing impairment or with neurological impairment also enjoys good health like anybody else. Therefore, an employee living with a disability will not mean that he/she is suffering from a disease and prone to life risks or susceptible to die pre-maturely. Such a conclusion on the part of respondent is illogical, arbitrary, have no empirical base and without any understanding of disability. Therefore, such a conclusion is required to be struck down. After hearing to both the parties at length referring to the cited cases from both the parties and referring to the various provisions of the UNCRPD the Hon’ble high court passed the verdict that it is indeed a discrimination on the basis of disability and directed the postal life insurance to provide equal insurance coverage and not charge extra premium from the employees with disabilities.