Jaipur: The Rajasthan high court on December 2 dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) into cases where ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company allegedly tricked people into buying its policies.
The order is yet to be uploaded on the high court’s website.
The plea was filed by a former employee of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company, Nitin Balchandani, against the Union of India, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) to direct the authorities to implement a transparent complaint registration and resolution system when it came to such cases.
The petitioner had asked that it be made mandatory to provide details of the communication on a complaint between the regulator and the concerned company. He had also asked that the grounds of declining any complaint be explained.
The dismissal order by high court Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty was unexpected, especially as the court, in the last hearing, had given an extension of two weeks for a reply from the respondents. Counsel for RBI, Rajat Dave had even come forward and asked for the court’s permission to file a reply, as a notice had not been issued to RBI.
“The chief justice had himself ordered RBI, IRDAI and the Union government to file replies in the last hearing but then dismissed the PIL without granting any relief or even seeking replies. This HC has neither explained nor justified the dismissal,” Balchandani told The Wire.
In fact, based on the complaint, IRDAI had conducted on-site inspection at ICICI Prudential’s office to look into the petitioner’s allegations. However, the report was kept on hold.
“Two inspections have been conducted on the said insurer in terms of the power vested in the authority by the Insurance Act, 1938, and IRDAI Act, 1999. The reports submitted by the inspection team are under examination and we are contemplating on clubbing observations on both the inspection reports and take appropriate action. Once the process is complete, a final action on such reports will follow,” IRDAI had said in its reply to the high court.
Earlier, Balchandani had registered a similar PIL against ICICI in September 22, 2016, and was arrested a day before the admission hearing of the PIL. A month later, the PIL was dismissed.
Based on the preliminary examination of the complaint filed by Balchandani and three aggrieved farmers, the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan police registered an FIR against ICICI Prudential on November 15, 2017.
During its investigation, the SOG found that the bank and its officials were involved in misleading consumers and had violated the norms issued by the IRDAI. It also booked the company officials for cheating, forging documents, criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
“These banks and insurance firms have unrealistic monthly targets. In this case, whenever they gave out loans to farmers or other vulnerable applicants, they put a substantial part of the money in insurance policies with recurring premium. In some cases, they put the entire loan amount in such policies. The farmer has no idea. It’s a comprehensive fraud,” inspector general of police (SOG) Dinesh M.N. had told The Wire.
Meanwhile, ICICI Prudential had also registered an FIR against Balchandani, alleging that he had harmed the company, stolen sensitive data and caused financial loss. However, on January 16, 2018, the HC quashed the FIR and all other proceedings against him.
On December 21, 2018, Balchandani registered this second PIL (which has now been dismissed0 in light of new facts.
Two defamation cases were also filed by Balchandani. In civil defamation case, notices have been served to the company and Rohit Saini and their replies are awaited. The next date for hearing of civil defamation case is December 20, 2019.
In the criminal defamation case, bailable warrants were issued against three top officials. Two of these officials went onto appeal in the sessions court, with the court cancelling the warrants and cognizance orders in its order dated October 19, 2019. Balchandani has now appealed against the sessions court order.