Suicide Clause in Various Life Policies in India
Life insurance policy is a contract between the policy holder (assured) and the insurer (insurance company), where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money (a "premium") upon the death of the insured person. In return, the policy holder agrees to pay a stipulated amount (at regular intervals or in lump sums). In nutshell, life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the liability of the insurer; common examples are claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot and civil commotion.
Suicide means a wilful and intentional act on the part of the selfdestroyer. It includes every act of self-destruction. Policies of life insurance contain conditions by which the liability of the insurer is modified and limited in case of suicide by the assured. Where there is such a clause in a policy, the insurer can avoid the policy. The position in England and in India is different on this issue. In England suicide is a crime and hence no money is payable if a person commits suicide while in a sane state of mind. On the other hand if the assured was insane at the time of committing suicide, the sum due can be recovered by his legal representatives. Under the Indian law, suicide in itself is not an offence, and as such a policy cannot be avoided on the ground of suicide, unless the policy otherwise provides. Suicide will, however, not affect the rights of assignee, if the policy holder had assigned the policy for valuable consideration. The burden of proving suicide is upon the insurers and where the cause of death is not known, the presumption is against suicide and the policy cannot be avoided.
This same is followed in India. According to this approach, the claim would be barred on a contractual level because the assured cannot be the author of his own loss, and on a broader level, because the law will not allow him to benefit from his own criminal acts.
This paper examines the development of law and policy in relation to claims on life insurance policy where the assured or insured has committed suicide after the commencement of the policy and the effect of suicide clause in life insurance contract. Is that the present practice of insurance companies to insert suicide clause in life policies, indirectly promotes commercial suicide in cases of intentional suicides.
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Copyright (c) 2015 Mr. Afroz Khan
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