SC seeks Centre, IRDA’s reply on plea for inclusion of mental illness in insurance policies

The grievance is that despite having specific provisions under the law, IRDA is reluctant in taking immediate action, advocate pointed.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 16) sought response from the Centre and the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) on a plea alleging violation of provisions of Mental health law, which deals with right to equality and non-discrimination.

A bench of Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and B R Gavai issued notice on the plea and sought their responses.

During the hearing, advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, appearing as petitioner in-person, said that Section 21 (4) of Mental Health Act 2017 provides for inclusion of mental illness in insurance policies but till date because of the red tape attitude of IRDA, the provision has not been complied with. He said the failure of IRDA in not regulating insurance companies to implement section 21 (4) of Mental Health Act 2017, is creating lot of hardship to mentally ill persons.

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Bansal said the grievance is that despite having specific provisions under the law, IRDA is reluctant in taking immediate action. The bias of IRDA is in itself discrimination against persons with mental illness and as such is causing immense hardship for persons with mental illness. Instead of levying punishment on Insurers for not including the provision of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017, IRDA is bypassing its responsibilities, he said.

Bansal pointed out that IRDA was formed with the prime mission to protect the interests of the policy- holders but its acts seem to divert from its main motive.

That one of the Right which Mental Healthcare Act2017 provides is that insurer is directed to not to discriminate with Person with Mental Illness (PMI) only on the basis of mental illness and as such is further mandated by the Parliament of India to treat Persons with Mental illness alike others as far as medical insurance is concerned, the plea said.

It said that following the enactment of law, IRDA had on August 16, 2018 issued a circular to all the insurers to comply with the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 2017.

Bansal said that in order to check out the end result of Circular of August 16, 2018 issued by IRDA, he filed an application dated January 10, 2019 under section 6 of the Right to Information Act 2005.

It is respectfully submitted that on dated February 6, 2019, Respondent No. 02 (IRDA) replied to the RTI January 10, wherein it was informed that till date none of the Insurers have implemented the order dated August 16, 2018 issued by IRDA, the plea said, adding, that the insurance regulator did not taken any action against any of the insurer for non-implementation of its order.

The plea added, Despite of the fact that one year has passed, situation as far as implementation of Section 21 (4) of MHCA 2017 remains the same and what surprised the petitioner is that instead of regulating insurance companies, Respondent No. 02 is acting more like a facilitator for Insurers.

Bansal said his grievances are that despite having specific provisions under the law, IRDA is reluctant in taking immediate action. The plea sought direction to IRDA to implement provisions of Mental Healthcare Act-2017 in letter and spirit and submit an action taken report.

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