Can a person convicted of murder but found to have been not criminally responsible benefit from the proceeds of an insurance policy held by the deceased? That is what Ved Dhingra tried to claim in a recent Ontario case. Mr. Dhingra claimed the proceeds of an insurance policy held by his deceased ex-wife, Kamlesh Dhingra (“Kamlesh”) as the “spouse insured” or co-insured. Mr. Dhingra was convicted of second-degree murder in Kamlesh’s death. However, Mr. Dhingra was found to have been not criminally responsible for Kamlesh’s death. He sought payment of the benefit and the insurer initially approved of the payment of the benefit to him. Mr. Dhingra’s son, who acted as the administrator of Kamlesh’s estate, took issue with the payment, claiming that the insurer should pay the proceeds to Kamlesh’s estate.
On an application before Justice Pollak (Dhingra v. Dhingra 2011 ONSC 3741 (CanLii)) to determine to whom the policy proceeds were payable, the issue to be determined was whether Mr. Dhingra was disentitled from the policy proceeds. Mr. Dhingra relied on American jurisprudence to support his position that the public policy rule prohibiting a person from benefiting from his own criminal act is only applicable if the killing is intentional.
Unfortunately for Mr. Dhingra, Justice Pollak found that we do not share the same jurisprudence on this issue as that held by the Land of the Free. Justice Pollak cited the case of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Board v. Young, et al, 1985 CarswellOnt 707, 49 O.R. (2d) for the proposition that the public policy rule precluded Mr. Dhingra from obtaining the proceeds of the policy. Her Honour did not discuss the case, which dealt with the unintentional killing by a wife of her husband, in any detail but quoted a brief paragraph of that decision in which the judge found he was bound by English and Canadian jurisprudence that found the public policy rule prevented a wrongdoer from benefitting regardless of intention. As well, she found that the public policy rule applied because Mr. Dhingra did still physically commit the crime. Intention to commit the crime was not necessary to find that the public policy rule applied.
What purpose does this public policy rule serve? The purpose cannot be to deter murderers-in-the-making, as it would hardly be effective where the individual was found to have been not criminally responsible. The purpose of the rule may be to ensure that no individual benefits from an abhorrent act, full stop. If that is the case, should there be a distinction drawn between someone who is aware of the consequences of his actions, and a person who was not capable of appreciating what he was doing?
The sad tale may not be over yet. Mr. Dhingra’s daughter, Lina, has indicated that she will appeal the decision.
Thanks for reading,