SC: Death due to malaria doesn’t constitute an accidental death

Today, i.e. on 26th March 2019, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of The Branch Manager National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Smt. Mousumi Bhattacharjee & Ors. observed that death due to diseases caused by insect bites in the natural course of events cannot be regarded as death due to accident.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

In order to constitute an accident, the event must be in the nature of an occurrence which is unnatural, unforeseen or unexpected. (Para 14)

There is a fine distinction between the occurrence of a disease which may be considered as an accident and a disease which occurs in the ‘natural course of events’. (Para 15)

Even when viral disease has proliferated in an area, every individual may not suffer from it. Getting a bout of flu or a viral illness may be a matter of chance. But a person who gets the flu cannot be described as having suffered an accident: the flu was transmitted in the natural course of things. To be bitten by a mosquito and be imbued with a malarial parasite does involve an element of chance. But the disease which is caused as a result of the insect bite in the natural course of events cannot be regarded as an accident. Particularly, when the disease is caused in an area which is malaria prone. (Para 18)

Where a disease is caused or transmitted in the natural course of events, it would not be covered by the definition of an accident. However, in a given case or circumstance, the affliction or bodily condition may be regarded as an accident where its cause or course of transmission is unexpected and unforeseen.(Para 18)

Malaria is most commonly transmitted to humans through malaria virus infested mosquito bites, and when a virus is contracted through normal means brought about by everyday life it cannot be deemed to be an unexpected or unforeseen accident. (Para 19)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_26-Mar-2019

-Tushar Kaushik

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