As you are aware that the Constitution of India has provided powers of Central and State Legislature to frame Rules and Regulations and to establish a Judiciary System to enforce these. The government has established various quasi judicial authorities , tribunals, appellate tribunals and a hierarchy of judicial system to provide opportunity to the people to raise disputes related to any matters whether civil or criminal and find solutions. The Government has specified jurisdiction of these courts /tribunals on the basis of resident or monitory basis.
The Hight Courts and the Apex Court of India has given vide power of supervisory role and to hear and decide cases based on some specific criteria. These courts generally do not interfere the normal proceedings of Quasi-Judicial Authorities and Tribunals or other forums. But in some cases, there may be a conflict of the decision or on the basis of wrong interpretation of statutes the decision of two judicial authorities may be superseded by a higher court of the lower court.
Our constitution has given immense power in the hand of our citizens through "writ Petitions", before Hight Courts and the Supreme Court of India. But this power should be utilised with care and a prudent manner. Generally, people in small disputes file a writ petition before courts and same is rejected by the courts and hence it cost and delay other cases that align with the courts for decision.
The Supreme Court of India through its various decisions instructed to High Courts for not considering those cases where contractual rights and obligations are involved and an oral or circumstantial evidences are required to decide the dispute.
[Life Insurance Corporation Vs. Smt. Asha Goel, 2001(2)BCR79]
The petition of law regarding the jurisdiction of High Court to entertain writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution for realisation of a sum assured under a Life Insurance policy and scope of inquiry by the High Court in case the insurer repudiates the claim on gourd was considered by the Appex Court as follows;
Article 226 of the Constitution confers extra-ordinary jurisdiction on the High Court to issue high prerogative writs for enforcement of the fundamental rights or for any other purpose. It is wide and expansive. The Constitution does not place any fetter on exercise of the extra-ordinary jurisdiction. It is left to the discretion of the High Courts. Therefore it cannot be laid down as a general proposition of law that in no case the High Courts can entertain a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution to enforce a claim under Life Insurance Policy.
It is neither possible nor proper to enumerate exhaustively the circumstances in which such a claim can or cannot be enforced by filing a Writ Petition. The dependence of question depends on consideration of several factors, like whether a writ petitioner merely attempting to forced his/her contractual rights or the case raised important questions of law and constitutional issue, the nature of dispute raised, the nature of inquiry necessary in the case for determination of the disputes, etc., All matters should be considered based on the facts and circumstances.
While jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot be denied altogether, courts muse bear in mind the self-imposed restriction consistently followed by the High Courts all these years after constitutional power came into existence in not entertaining Writ Petitions filed for enforcement of purely contractual rights and obligations which involve disputed questions of facts. The various courts have taken consistently views that in a case where for determination of the dispute raised it is necessary to inquire into facts for determination of which it may become necessary to record oral evidence a proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution is not a appropriate forum.
The position is also settled that if the contract entered between parties provides alternate forum for resolution of disputes arising from the contract , then the parties should first approach the forum agreed by them and High Court through Writ Jurisdiction does not permit them to bye-pass the established procedure of jurisprudence.
Mohammed Hanif Vs. The State of Assam 1969 SCC 782 & Banchhanidhi Rath Vs. The State of Orissa and Others 1972(4)SCC 781 in above cases the Apex Court disapproved of High Courts entertaining a petition under Article 226 in the matters of enforcement of contractual rights and obligations particularly where the claim by one party is contested by the other and adjudication of dispute requires inquire into facts.
Emerges from above discussion and decisions that ordinary the High courts should not entertain a Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution for mere enforcement of a claim under a contract of insurance
Where an insurer repudiated a claim in such case a Writ Petition filed before High Court, the Court has to consider the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of dispute between the parties and the nature of inquiry to be conducted for determination of questions raised and other relevant facts before taking a decision ,whether it should entertain the Writ Petition or reject it as not maintainable.
It is also kept in mind that in case an insured or nominee of the deceased insured is refused relief merely on the ground that the claim relates to contractual obligations and rights and he/she is driven to a long drawn litigation in the Civil Court, it will cause serious prejudice to the claimant/other beneficiaries of the policy. The pros and cons of the matter in the context of the fact situation of the case should be carefully weighed and appropriate decision should be taken.
In a case where claim by insured or a nominee is repudiated raising a serious dispute and the court finds the disputes to be a bona fide one which requires oral and documentary evidence for its determination then the appropriate remedy is Civil Suit and not Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Same as in case of a fraud cases, where an insurance company has repudiated an insurance claim alleging that there was fraud done by the insured and his /her relatives for lodging a claim and the facts and circumstances of the case shows that an investigations or inquiry is needed to find out true causes of the dispute or validity of repudiation by the insurance company in this case also the right authority to entertain the dispute if the Civil Court and not the Writ Petition.
DISCLAIMER: The above write up is only for information and knowledge of readers.