The Bombay High Court (HC), while hearing a case of non-repair and non-filling of potholes on roads, asked BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to respond to the suggestion of requiring public liability insurance (PLI) during the next hearing on 8 June 2023.
In an order on Monday, the bench of acting chief justice SV Gangarpurwala and justice Sandeep V Marne said, "The amicus curiae has also raised the issue of public liability insurance. Same also would be required to be considered by the respondent municipal corporation. The Corporation may also make submissions in respect of the same."
It also directed BMC to take adequate steps to close all manholes considering the ensuing monsoon.
Last month, advocate Jamshed Mistry and advocate Dipesh Siroya, the amicus curiae in the case, had submitted the 'Report on Public Liability Insurance in India' prepared by Moneylife Foundation. At that time, the HC remarked that public liability insurance was a very good suggestion, especially for the victims of such incidents.
Advocate Mistry shared action taken points from the report before the bench. Advocate Mistry submitted that in the case of liability insurance, the victims could be immediately provided with some relief without needing to go through a rigorous process.
About the Report
India is hampered by the fact that the Law of Torts has not been codified, unlike other countries. Further, judgements which define judicial thinking in this area have thus far been concentrated only on industrial accidents. So, victims of non-industrial accidents such as the Morbi bridge collapse or the Uphaar Cinema tragedy still have nowhere to go for relief.
While many measures to address this have been suggested in the report, the overwhelming view that resonated with the experts consulted was in favour of the following essential initiatives:
• Mandating public liability insurance by expanding the purview of the Act to encompass all business owners;
• Setting up a separate judicial forum for victims of non-industrial casualties so that their plea for justice and compensation can be fast-tracked. This ought to be on the lines of the motor vehicle accident tribunals which are considered highly effective by all stakeholders.
• Pave the way for a plaintiff's bar or introduce the contingency fee system for lawyers so that there is some incentive at the legal professional's end to facilitate the deliverance of justice.
From an insurance perspective, the report has suggested that non-life insurers concentrate on improving their product coverage and also on improving the claims conditions so that no hapless insured will ever be forced to withdraw his claim, because the policy would not pay or the claims conditions are too onerous to comply with.
As for the claims handling issues, the report makes an important suggestion of making the entire claims process owner independent. In fact, a suggestion has been made to replicate the motor accident claims to handle the process suitably for public liability claims.