The Branch Manager National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Smt. Mousumi Bhattacharjee - Important Supreme Court Judgment 2019

The Branch Manager National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Smt. Mousumi Bhattacharjee - Important Supreme Court Judgment 2019


On 26th March, 2019, in the case of The Branch Manager National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Smt. Mousumi Bhattacharjee & Ors. [Civil Appeal No. 2614 of 2019], while interpreting an insurance policy envisaging an accident cover, the Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether death of the insured due to encephalitis malaria occasioned by a mosquito bite in Mozambique, constituted a death due to accident.


The Supreme Court observed that “where a disease is caused or transmitted in the natural course of events, it would not be covered by the definition of an accident.” It was held that “in a policy of insurance which covers death due to accident, the peril insured against is an accident: an untoward happening or occurrence which is unforeseen and unexpected in the normal course of human events”, and thus the submission that “being bitten by a mosquito is an unforeseen eventuality and should be regarded as an accident” was not accepted by the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court observed that the “insured was based in Mozambique” and Mozambique “accounts for 5% of cases of malaria globally” and “it is also on record that one out of three people in Mozambique is afflicted with malaria.” In light of these statistics, it was held that “the illness of encephalitis malaria through a mosquito bite cannot be considered as an accident” since it “was neither unexpected nor unforeseen” and “it was not a peril insured against in the policy of accident insurance.”


However, on being “informed during the course of the hearing that the claim under the insurance policy has been paid by the insurer”, the Supreme Court, in exercise of its’ jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution, directed “that no recoveries shall be made.” 

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