Delhi HC pulls IRDA on insurance cos denying benefits to HIV patients

The Delhi High Court has sought a response from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) on a PIL challenging the insurance companies' "unreasonable and unconstitutional" mandate to deny insurance benefits to HIV positive people. A Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra issued a notice to the IRDA through the Government of India and demanded a reply to the petition that asked for a court order to the insurance regulator to direct all the companies to consider people suffering with HIV/AIDS on a par with others. The Petition, filed by activist Dr. Rajeev Sharma, claimed that the exclusion clause was in complete violation of the fundamental right to life and liberty of the said class of people, who suffered not only illegal discrimination but also financial problems as a large number of them belonged to economically weaker sections. The insurance sector is one area where PLHAs are discriminated against. Many existing insurance policies include an exclusion clause specifically excluding insurance benefits of HIV/AIDS and related treatment. Thus, when an existing policy holder is subsequently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during the policy period they are denied the benefits of their existing insurance policy. HRLN Advocates Tariq Adeeb and Pankaj Sinha argued before the court that only one out of the 24 insurance companies listed with the IRDA provided insurance to the HIV positive people and that most of them also withdrew the policies in case of the existing policy holders getting afflicted subsequently. "The discrimination is unreasonable and there was no nexus between the classification of people living with HIV/AIDS and the insurance benefits," stated the PIL.