News Brief

Insurance policy clauses excluding genetic disorders are unconstitutional, rules Delhi High Court

Justice Pratibha M Singh said there is an urgent need to frame guidelines to prevent such discrimination.

The Delhi High Court on Monday ruled that clauses in insurance policies that exclude genetic disorders are ambiguous and violate Article 14 of the Constitution, which says citizens will be treated equally before law, Bar and Bench reported.

The right to health insurance is an integral part of the right to health and healthcare as recognised by Article 21, Justice Pratibha M Singh said, while hearing a petition filed by Jai Prakash Tayal against United India Insurance.

The judge observed that several medical conditions that affect a large number of people, including cardiac conditions, high blood pressure, and diabetes, could be categorised as genetic disorders, Live Law reported. “The broad exclusion of genetic disorders from insurance contracts or claims is illegal and unconstitutional,” Justice Singh said.

The judge said the exclusion of genetic disorders is not merely a contractual issue between the insurance company and the insured, but “spills into the broader canvas of Right to Health”. “There appears to be an urgent need to frame a proper framework to prevent against genetic discrimination as also to protect collection, preservation and confidentiality of genetic data,” she added.

Singh ordered the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority to take a look at exclusionary clauses in insurance contracts, and ensure that the companies do not reject the claims of those who suffer from genetic diseases.

United India Insurance had challenged a lower court’s order in favour of Tayal, whose insurance claim was rejected as he suffers from Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy, a disease that results in abnormal thickening of the muscular tissue of the heart.

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People who fall through the gaps in road safety campaigns

Helmet and road safety campaigns might have been neglecting a sizeable chunk of the public at risk.

City police, across the country, have been running a long-drawn campaign on helmet safety. In a recent initiative by the Bengaluru Police, a cop dressed-up as ‘Lord Ganesha’ offered helmets and roses to two-wheeler riders. Earlier this year, a 12ft high and 9ft wide helmet was installed in Kota as a memorial to the victims of road accidents. As for the social media leg of the campaign, the Mumbai Police made a pop-culture reference to drive the message of road safety through their Twitter handle.

But, just for the sake of conversation, how much safety do helmets provide anyway?

Lack of physical protections put two-wheeler riders at high risk on the road. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are ‘vulnerable road users’ – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the Indian transport ministry, about 28 two-wheeler riders died daily on Indian roads in 2016 for not wearing helmets.

The WHO states that wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. The components of a helmet are designed to reduce impact of a force collision to the head. A rigid outer shell distributes the impact over a large surface area, while the soft lining absorbs the impact.

However, getting two-wheeler riders to wear protective headgear has always been an uphill battle, one that has intensified through the years owing to the lives lost due on the road. Communication tactics are generating awareness about the consequences of riding without a helmet and changing behaviour that the law couldn’t on its own. But amidst all the tag-lines, slogans and get-ups that reach out to the rider, the safety of the one on the passenger seat is being ignored.

Pillion rider safety has always been second in priority. While several state governments are making helmets for pillion riders mandatory, the lack of awareness about its importance runs deep. In Mumbai itself, only 1% of the 20 lakh pillion riders wear helmets. There seems to be this perception that while two-wheeler riders are safer wearing a helmet, their passengers don’t necessarily need one. Statistics prove otherwise. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Cyberabad traffic police reported that 1 of every 3 two-wheeler deaths was that of a pillion rider. DGP Chander, Goa, stressed that 71% of fatalities in road accidents in 2017 were of two-wheeler rider and pillion riders of which 66% deaths were due to head injury.

Despite the alarming statistics, pillion riders, who are as vulnerable as front riders to head-injuries, have never been the focus of helmet awareness and safety drives. To fill-up that communication gap, Reliance General Insurance has engineered a campaign, titled #FaceThePace, that focusses solely on pillion rider safety. The campaign film tells a relatable story of a father taking his son for cricket practice on a motorbike. It then uses cricket to bring our attention to a simple flaw in the way we think about pillion rider safety – using a helmet to play a sport makes sense, but somehow, protecting your head while riding on a two-wheeler isn’t considered.

This road safety initiative by Reliance General Insurance has taken the lead in addressing the helmet issue as a whole — pillion or front, helmets are crucial for two-wheeler riders. The film ensures that we realise how selective our worry about head injury is by comparing the statistics of children deaths due to road accidents to fatal accidents on a cricket ground. Message delivered. Watch the video to see how the story pans out.

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To know more about Reliance general insurance policies, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Reliance General Insurance and not by the Scroll editorial team.