IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
REVIEW PETITION(C) No.3538 of 2016
CIVIL APPEAL NO.8543 OF 2009
Dravya Finance Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. …..Petitioners
S.K. Roy & Ors. …..Respondents
J U D G M E N T
Shiva Kirti Singh, J.
Heard learned counsel for the parties.
Although this petition is labelled as a contempt petition arising out of
Civil Appeal No.8543 of 2009, by order dated 26th September, 2016, the
contempt proceedings were closed and the petition is now being treated only
as a limited review petition for answering a short but significant question
as to from what date, the interest needs to be calculated and paid by the
LIC to the petitioners in terms of final order dated 10th December, 2015 in
Civil Appeal No.8543 of 2009. The last but one paragraph of the Order
dated 10th December, 2015 is relevant for appreciating the issue relating
to interest indicated above. That paragraph runs as follows :-
“It is further clarified that in view of the disposal of this Appeal, in
the circumstances mentioned above, the Appellant will be liable to pay
interest at the prevailing Bank rate (without penal interest) as per
Section 8 sub-section (5) of the Insurance Regulatory and Development
Authority (Protection of Policy Holder Interest) Regulations, 2002. The
disposal of this Appeal is without prejudice to other Appeals in which
arguments have been closed.”
It will also be apposite to extract the Order passed in this case on 26th
September, 2016 which is as follows :-
“On hearing the parties, we find that the order passed by this Court
on 10th December, 2015 in C.A.No.8543 of 2009 has been substantially or may
be fully complied with except that a dispute has arisen with regard to
interpretation of observations made at the end of that Order relating to
payment of interest at the prevailing bank rate. The dispute requires an
answer as to the ‘the date’ from which the interest should be calculated.
In our considered opinion, this dispute raises questions of equity
between the parties to be adjusted on account of earlier orders passed in
C.A.No.8543 of 2009 and the language used in the Order dated 10th December,
2015. It will be appropriate to consider the issue not under Contempt
Jurisdiction but in Review Jurisdiction. Therefore, the contempt
proceedings are closed.
For that purpose, we direct that this Contempt Petition shall now be
treated as limited Review Petition and may be listed in Court on 18th
October, 2016 i.e. on a non-misc. day.
It is further recorded that the petitioners may accept whatever
amount Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) is ready to pay as interest without
prejudice to their claims which may be determined by way of Review.
It goes without saying that the petitioners will be entitled to
pursue their remedy by approaching LIC with further particulars/materials
in respect of the cases which are still pending for settlement.”
Since the issue under dispute is very narrow one, it is not necessary to
refer to facts in detail. It is sufficient to notice that the first
petitioner is a non-banking finance company engaged in the business of
lending money against collateral security. It accepts life insurance
policies as collateral security through assignment of insurance policies by
borrower in favour of the petitioners. On 22nd October, 2003 and 2nd
March, 2005, LIC issued two circulars for putting restrictions on
assignment of insurance policies with a view to prevent “trading” in
policies. The circulars were challenged before the Bombay High Court
through two writ petitions filed in the year 2004. They were allowed by
quashing the two circulars vide judgments and orders dated 22nd March, 2007
and 23rd April, 2007 respectively. No order for grant of any interest was
passed by the High Court nor the petitioners appealed against such orders.
LIC challenged the judgments of Bombay High Court by way of S.L.P.(C)
Nos.8918 and 10783, both of 2007. This Court passed interim order in
favour of LIC and, as a result, the petitioners could get only temporary
registration of assignment in its favour but could not file any death claim
or maturity claim during the pendency of the Civil Appeal No.8543 of 2009
arising out of SLP against the petitioners. Ultimately, by the final order
dated 10th December, 2015, Civil Appeal against the petitioners was
disposed of on the basis of undertakings furnished on affidavit which were
accepted by the Court on account of agreement accorded to the terms of the
undertaking by the learned senior counsel for the LIC. The provisional
registrations were made permanent and the interim orders passed on 4th
April, 2008 were recalled. The LIC was thus required to process the claim
applications or maturity applications as well as fresh applications for
registration in accordance with the order dated 10th December, 2015 and in
that context, this Court observed that LIC will be liable to pay interest
at the prevailing bank rate (without penal interest) as per relevant
provisions in the regulations of 2002.
It may be indicated, at this stage only, that the other appeals in which
arguments had been concluded also came to be finally dismissed against the
LIC on 29th December 2015. As a result, the judgment of the High Court of
Bombay declaring the circulars ultra vires stood confirmed.
The present contempt petition came to be filed against the LIC. As noticed
above, the same was closed on 26th September, 2016 but this Court directed
it to be treated as a limited review petition because of an apparent
omission in the final order dated 10th December, 2015 in not mentioning as
to from what date, the LIC will be liable to pay interest at the prevailing
bank rate (without penal interest).
On behalf of the petitioners, Mr. Shyam Divan, learned Senior Advocate
placed reliance upon various sub-regulations of Regulation 8 to suggest
that as per statutory regulations, the interest should be payable after 30
days from the date of maturity of the policy or date of death in case where
the insured died during the pendency of the policy.
On the other hand, learned Attorney General appearing on behalf of LIC
pointed out that the High Court did not grant any relief by way of interest
and, therefore, equity can be taken care of by ordering payment of interest
only at a reasonable rate from 4th April, 2008 when this Court passed an
interim order but without prejudice to the ultimate rights of the parties
and, as a result, temporary registration of assignment became possible.
He strongly advocated for reducing the rate of interest from bank rate to
that of savings bank rate on the plea that there was no intentional delay
caused by the LIC and, therefore, its interest should also be protected
while adjusting the equities through grant of interest.
As is evident from order passed in this case on 26th September, 2016, the
present dispute relates only to a question of adjustment of equities
between the parties on account of earlier interim order as well as the
language used in the order dated 10th December, 2015. The exercise that
needs to be undertaken is really one of modification of the order dated
10th December, 2015, necessitated because of obvious omission in supplying
the date from which the interest should be calculated. Since the High
Court did not grant any relief by way of interest and the petitioners did
not challenge the said judgment and order, we find merit in the submission
of learned Attorney General that interest will be payable only on or after
4th April, 2008 when this Court imposed certain restrictions on the
petitioners’ right to lodge death claims or maturity claims for appropriate
However, since the interim order of this Court has stood in the way of the
petitioners from getting its money claims against LIC within due time and
the money has remained with the LIC because of interim arrangement enforced
by this Court, it will not be proper to reduce the bank rate as ordered
already. Accordingly, we modify the last but one paragraph of final order
dated 10th December, 2015 passed in Civil Appeal No.8543 of 2009. It shall
be so read as to include a clause that the LIC will be liable to pay
interest at the prevailing bank rate (without penal interest) from 30 days
after the date of death or date of maturity relating to the life insurance
policy concerned or from 4th April, 2008, whichever is later.
This matter is disposed of accordingly. We hope and trust that the LIC
will discharge its liabilities as per this order with promptitude and
without any unnecessary delay.
[ANIL R. DAVE]
[SHIVA KIRTI SINGH]
October 26, 2016.