A non-profit organization engaged in promoting financial literacy has moved the Supreme Court, alleging cheating, especially of senior citizens, by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) through its Jeevan Saral policy, in which nearly 5 crore policy holders have "lost a big chunk on their principal investment".
The Mumbai-based Moneylife Foundation said it has received several complaints from policy holders, especially senior citizens, in the past few years.
"This scam is nearly or probably more than Rs1 lakh crore. We have a large number of complaints against this policy. This prompted us to file a Public Interest Litigation in the top court in the country. It is a clear case of cheating by the LIC," said Yogesh Sapkale of the foundation, which is seeking return of the premium of the policy-holders with 8 per cent interest.
After hearing senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for the foundation, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi posted the matter on July 15 for a detailed hearing.
The petition alleges that the Jeevan Saral policy was arbitrarily designed, and therefore, there was no emphasis on the due diligence aspect and gullible customers were misled through proposal forms, which were not correct.
After several allegations, the LIC recalled the policy in 2014, but the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Finance Ministry are yet to recall it, and the policy-holders have been running from pillar to post for redressal, it said.
According to the foundation, the policy has gobbled-up the hard-earned savings of crores of policy holders, and it also left the LIC agents and their association infuriated. There have been many protests and complaints against the LIC, but it has not yet decided on returning the premium of the policy holders.
Due to the ill-design of the policy, senior citizens received negative returns on their investment, the foundation said, citing an example of a senior citizen who invested nearly Rs 10 lakh in ten years but at the end of the policy's tenure, received merely Rs 3 lakh.
Although, few customers moved consumer courts and got favourable orders, but this whole process of litigation is extremely time-consuming, said the foundation.
Moneylife's petition alleges several complaints and representations have been made to the LIC highlighting the gross irregularity in their system, but it has not budged.
"The IRDAI is empowered under Section 33 of the Insurance Act read with the Insurance Amendment Act, 2015 and the IRDA Act, 1999 to investigate the malpractices. However, it has remained a silent spectator of 'mass cheating by LIC'," Sapkale said, clarifying they have locus standi on the matter, as policy-holders are not organized under a body.