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R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     11 March 2008

Can Murder be treated as an accident

A particular person holds a Personal Accidents Policy covering accidental injury to self or his death. He gets murdered by the opposite political party workers to settle old scores. The FIR and the Charge Sheet is filed against the main culprits and the Criminal Trial is pending. In the meanwhile, the nominees of the deceased make a claim to the insurer to pay the policy amount by treating this murder as an accident on the footing that the deceased had no idea that he would be killed, no doubt the attackers have premeditation to kill by sudden attack. This query is more or less like an opinion poll with legal reasons supported by the judgements of Courts of law. Hence, I request all to participate. More over, I want to submit an article to this website after recieving your legal opinions.


Learning

 15 Replies

Guest (n/a)     12 March 2008

Murder and assault are excluded from the purview of any Personal Accident Insurance coverage.

Guest (n/a)     12 March 2008

Supreme Court of India has held in one of its decission that if a murder has been committed by use of motor vehicle that the Legal representative of the deceased are entitled to compensation.

R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     13 March 2008

Hi Mr. Srinivasan and Jigar,

Thanks, but see that there is policy with certain terms and conditions. The Policy did not define the term accident. It only defined the coverage portion in the words "by any accident by external, visible and violent means". Mr. Srinivasan may kindly see that policy did not expressly exclude injury through assault or murder. In fact, no exclusions were specified in the policy.

Yet another thing is that the victim is unaware of the premeditated attack. Had he known the same, things would have been different.

Mr Jigar would be in a position to see that motor vehicle in that case was the weapon and the person died is a third party to the said weapon and that any death or injury by that kind of weapon forms part of a legislation called Motor Vehicles Act but here is a case of private policy not controlled by any legislation. Rather the Terms and Conditions of the policy itself is the private contract between the parties thereto.

R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     15 March 2008

I have taken into consideration the opinion of Mr. Srinivasan and Mr. Jigar and take it that there is nothing more coming. I shall then release my article which was tentative by duly making these two opinions also as incorporated.

R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     16 March 2008

Dear Friends,

I could finalise my article with the above caption. Thanks to Mr. R. Srinivasan and Mr. Jigar Patel who rendered a few valuable tips that are already contained in the interactive discussion. Today I am submitting my article to this website for the benefit of all the members and for their convenient reading, down below is my article:

CAN MURDER BE TREATED AS AN ACCIDENT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PERSONAL ACCIDENTS INSURANCE POLICY.



By R. Brizmohan Singh
Advocate



The one and the only point involved in the above captioned topic is as to whether Murder is an Accident or not?

THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE POLICY: did not define an Accident but only qualified the same that mere accident is not enough for payment under the policy but the accident must be accompanied by tell tale qualities of the same being i) Visible, (ii) Violent and (iii) External means. There is no dispute that in a Murder, these three ingredients are existing. But, what does this word ‘Accident’ mean appears to be the only point for consideration.

Inasmuch as the word accident is not defined in the Terms and Conditions, the only alternative available is to look into the dictionary, the Supreme Court Judgments, the I.P.C. and Criminal Procedure Code along with the definition or description of Murder.

As per Macmillan English Dictionary for advanced learners, International Edition, the word Accident and its related words along with illustrations is as follows:

ACCIDENT: 1. a crash involving a car, train, plane, or other vehicle; a fatal accident on the autoroute between Paris and Lyons. He was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. The accident was caused by ice on the road. 1a. a sudden event, usually caused by someone making a mistake that results in damage, injury, or death; Seven men were killed in a serious mining accident yesterday. A riding/climbing/hunting accident. 1b. a mistake that causes minor damage or harm: Don’t make such a fuss – it was an accident.

2. Something that happens unexpectedly, without being planned: To be honest, my second pregnancy was an accident. 2a. it is no accident used for saying that something was planned, perhaps for dishonest reasons: It is no accident that every letter we send is delayed.

An accident of birth a situation caused by who your family is rather than by anything you do

An accident waiting to happen 1. a situation likely to cause an accident: An ageing nuclear reactor is an accident waiting to happen. 2. someone who behaves in a way what is likely to cause trouble
By accident by chance, without being planned or intended. Quite by accident, she came up with a brilliantly simple solution. Occasionally we would meet by accident in the corridor.


Going by the above, it can be clearly seen that presence of intention, preplanning or expectations removes a particular happening out of the definition of word Accident. This definition has universal application and the dictionary does not make any distinction based on any particular situation. In legal terms, absence of mens rea is the criteria for calling any incident an Accident.

Thus, Murder is defined in the form of noun as THE CRIME OF KILLING SOMEONE DELIBERATELY and in the form of verb as TO COMMIT THE CRIME OF KILLING SOMEONE DELIBERATELY.

It is this word Deliberate that rules out the possibility of an incident being called an Accident. This is exactly is the reason that Accident has been made an exception and a defense to a charge of Murder and the Indian Penal Code describes the various kinds of Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder and not amounting to the same as the reading of Sections 299, 300, 301 and 304-A along with Accident as a defense or an exception.

299. Culpable homicide:- Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.

300. Murder:- Firstly, Except in the cases hereinafter excepted, culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or

Secondly:- If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or

Thirdly:- If it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or

Fourthly:- If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.


Exception 1:- When culpable homicide is not murder:- Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.

301. Culpable homicide by causing death of person other than person whose death was intended:- If a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows to be likely to cause death, commits culpable homicide by causing the death of any person, whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to case, the culpable homicide committed by the offender is of the description of which it would have been if he had caused the death of the person whose death he intended or knew himself to be likely to cause.

304-A. Causing death by negligence:- Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.


The combined effect of reading the aforesaid sections cannot be better illustrated than mere reproduction of the words of the Supreme Court in the case of Smt. Rita Devi and others Vs New India Assurance Company Limited and Another cited as 2000 (3) Supreme 698, as "the question, therefore, is can a murder be an accident in any given case? There is no doubt that ‘murder’, as it is understood, in the common parlance is a felonious act where death is caused with intent and the perpetrators of that act normally have a motive against the victim for such killing. But there are also instances where murder can be by accident on a given set of facts. The difference between a ‘murder’ which is not an accident and a ‘murder’ which is an accident, depends on the proximity of the cause of such murder. In our opinion, if the dominant intention of the Act of felony is to kill any particular person then such killing is not an accidental murder but is a murder simplicitor, While if the cause of murder or act of murder was originally not intended and the same was caused in furtherance of any other felonious act then such murder is an accidental murder.

However, contrary to the above judgment of the Supreme Court and without referring any case law or the illegal principle, the National Commission in the case of Manda Savarna Vs The Branch Manager, LIC of India and Another cited as 1998 (3) CPR 5 (NC) merely held that whether an incident is an accident or not has to be seen only from the point of view of the insured.

With great respect to that judgment, by being contrary to Supreme Court, by not even basing on legal principle and by not referring to the over whelming case law on the point, the same cannot have any binding force on any subsequent Court of co-ordinate jurisdiction or sub-ordinate jurisdiction as the legal position clarified by the Supreme Court in Rita Devi Case and in all other previous judgments was not present to the mind of National Commission.

Insofar as legal principle is concerned, it is not the insured’s point of view that is the criteria but it is The Rule of Contra Proferentem that is actually the legal principle applicable to insurance contracts.

Rule of Contra Proferentem is generally made applicable to standard form of contracts. Later, this rule was extended to Terms and Conditions of insurance policies. It is strictly a rule of interpretation where, in case of an ambiguity, the construction that is favourable to the insured is adopted. This is purely a rule invoked for interpretation of the terms of contracts. This rule has no application to anything when no particular term of contract is under interpretation. Even this interpretation is confined to cases where there is existence of any ambiguity in any particular term. In the absence of any word being in ambiguity, it cannot be invoked.

As seen from the dictionary meaning and as on exception on defense to a charge of murder and further going by the interpretation of the said term by the Supreme Court in of the said term by the Supreme Court in Rita Devi Supra, hardly any ambiguity exits. The Supreme Court of India in Central Bank of India Vs Hartford Fire Insurance Company cited as AIR 1965 SC 1288 clearly held “it is well known however that the rule (of contra proferentum) has no application where there is no ambiguity in the words in the standard form of contract : London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Company Limited Vs Bolands” in para 11 of the judgment.


Yet, in a latest judgment in United India Insurance Company Limited Vs Harchandrai Chandanlal cited as JT 2004 (8) SC 8, the Supreme Court reiterated at para 14 that therefore, it is settled law that the terms of contract has to be strictly read and NATURAL meaning be given to it. No outside aid should be sought unless the meaning is ambiguous.


Hence, considering murder as an accident only for the purpose of insured’s point of view is not safe and considering the same would militate against the dictionary meaning, against the defense of accident against a charge of murder and the definitions of various types of culpable Homicide requiring amendment of the provisions of Cr.P.C. and hence, unnatural.

***************

Indrajeet Dasgupta (Advocate)     16 March 2008

Mr. Singh, Sorry for the delay. Hope it is not too late. In my opinion the Judgement of the National Commission in the case of Manda Savarna Vs The Branch Manager, LIC of India and Another is perfectly in consonance with the Judgement in the Rita Devi Case. Kindly see paragraph 10 to 18. I could not find any contradiction. Kindly elaborate. 'Insured point of view' refered to by the national commission obviously means that it has to be seen whether the act causing death was accidental as far as the insured is concerned or has been caused due to an act for which the insured is responsible.

R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     19 March 2008

Mr. Indrajeet, I have to agree with you on one thing that the National Commission did not expressly say that Insured's point of view is to be seen but that is what could be culled out from it. I totally agree with you about the elaboration you gave to the words Insured's Point of View. My opinion was based on as to whether the legal principle that ought to have been applied -- I mean The Rule Of Contra Proferentem and also whether the Natural Meaning is attached to the word or not while interpreting. Please also see that the Terms and Conditions in that policy are altogether different. I have a feeling that the principle applied by Rita Devi as to whether there was prior intention or not was not at all taken into consideration by Manda Savarna

JAYARAJAN P.R. (ADVOCATE ARBITRATOR AUTHOR COMMISSIONER OF OATHS AND EDITOR)     05 May 2008

Sir,

Your case makes to recall a similar case wherein Life Insurance Policy was taken. The Policy holder died. The police booked a case for suspicious death. Later the police filed charge sheet against his wife for murder of the said policy holder i.e. her husband. Here it is to point out that the said wife was the nominee of the insured amount. The LIC repudiated the claim filed by the wife earlier for the alleged involvement in murder. Later she was aquitted from the charges of murder. Thereafter also, the LIC did not pay the insured amount.

Hence she filed a Consumer Compliant before Consumer Forum where it was held since the wife was aquitted, she is entitled for the insured amount. The only option rather defence available for the insurance companies is violation of policy conditions or suppression of meterial facts at the time of taking of policy, it added in its order.

As far as your quary is concerned, since the policy is meant for accidental death, murder will not come within the purview. Death by murder is different from death by accident. This is my view.

Regards.

PRJAYARAJAN, ADVOCATE.

Guest (n/a)     05 May 2008

That's right Mr. Jayarajan. The policy in your case is a life policy but not an accidents policy. No matter how the death took place the amounts are required to be paid for loss of life. The only objection of LIC might have been that the nominee herself being the murderer is not entitled to the policy amount but not that murder does not amount to loss of life. The criminal proceeding having been ended in acquittal, she is no more a murdered. As you know in criminal law the accused is still not a Murderer unless convicted and presumed to be innocent until then and is also entitled to right of silence on her part as she is only an accused not convicted.

Guest (n/a)     05 May 2008

That's right Mr. Jayarajan. The policy in your case is a life policy but not an accidents policy. No matter how the death took place the amounts are required to be paid for loss of life. The only objection of LIC might have been that the nominee herself being the murderer is not entitled to the policy amount but not that murder does not amount to loss of life. The criminal proceeding having been ended in acquittal, she is no more a murdered. As you know in criminal law the accused is still not a Murderer unless convicted and presumed to be innocent until then and is also entitled to right of silence on her part as she is only an accused not convicted.

R. Brizmohan Singh (Practising Lawyer)     07 May 2008

Dear Mr. Jayarajan,

That's correct, the distinction in the case cited by you is that the policy therein is a life policy and it is immaterial whether the loss of life is through natural cause or accident whereas in the subject matter of this topic, it is an accidents policy and it is only material as to whether the loss of life is through an accident or not to the exclusion of other causes.

An accused is not guilty unless convicted and is presumed to be innocent until then. In your case the criminal proceedings having ended in acquittal there is hardly any confusion which was not there even when the nominee was accused.

I do seem to agree with the views of the court in your case.

Asgher Mahdi (Advocate & Legal Advisor)     01 July 2008

Real Motive counts.Mensrea involves.In the instance case,Mensrea is not clear.Only version are creative.
Infact, concept of ingreident to count murder in acident cases shall have to amend.

JAYARAJAN P.R. (ADVOCATE ARBITRATOR AUTHOR COMMISSIONER OF OATHS AND EDITOR)     14 July 2008

Yes. It is treated as Accident by our High Court, Madras recently as per its judgment dated 10-07-08. "the term arising out of accident" was extended to murder also.

K.C.Suresh (Advocate)     15 July 2008

Hallo Sir, The caption of your article is question and is answered generally with a big "NO". But the facts may turn the NO to YES. Here in Kerala trial a famous case Kanichukulangara murder case is procedding. The fact that two passengers of car was killed by hitting with a lorry. The basic thing is for murder there must br mens rea except in negligent and rash cases. But for insurance purpose accident is sufficient. But if it is a murder the criminal jurisprudence may not twist its pointer to your line of thinking. However your attempt is sportive.


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