SC notice to Centre on plea seeking ex gratia for families of COVID-19 victims

Published: May 24,2021 02:48 PM

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The SC on Monday issued a notice to the Centre, on hearing petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities to provide ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs to the COVID victims family.

May 24, 2021: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre, on hearing petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities to provide ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs to the family members of those who have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic as per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter in view of Section 12 of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.

A two-judge vacation bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprising Justice M R Shah, has issued notice to the Union of India (UOI) after hearing the petitions filed by two lawyers-- Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal.

"We issue notice to the Centre and will list the matter for further hearing on June 11," the Top Court said.

Lawyer for petitioner Kansal, S Upadhyay, submitted to the Apex Court that a large number of deaths are taking place, and death certificates need to be issued.

Then in pursuance of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, compensation needs to be paid to the victims' family members.

To this, Justice Bhushan asked Upadhayay, if this payment has been made by any state. Replying to the question, Upadhyay said no.

"The scheme ended in 2020. Do you want a similar scheme to be implemented now?" Justice Shah, the other judge on the bench, asked Upadhayay.

To which Upadhyay replied that he wants the scheme to be extended to the future too.

To which the Supreme Court said, "But there is no prayer in that regard, so let the Union of India file a reply in the issue and then we will take up the matter".

Upadhyay further submitted to the Apex Court that there is a letter of March 14, 2020, which said, "To give benefit under the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Act, the disaster has to be natural one" and COVID was notified as a disaster.

Upadhyay also said that Justice Shah is correct in stating that the scheme ended in 2020. "So our prayer is the benefit of Section 12 should be given now as well", he added.

The Supreme Court wanted to know from the Centre as to whether there is a uniform policy on death certificates, as there are many situations where reason is not given as COVID.

If the States say they follow ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines, then, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to produce the guidelines about the death certificates, and fixed the matter for further hearing to June 11, Friday.

The lawyer, Reepak Kansal, has filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court seeking immediate appropriate directions and/or orders to the concerned authorities to pay financial help as laid down by the Central government in its statute and rules to the family members of the deceased, who succumbed to Covid-19 pandemic.

Kansal, said "It is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family member/relative on any official document," and he cited the ground that "the medical officers have not been conducting post mortem of the persons who are dying due to COVID-19."

He has approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to the respondent States to issue death certificates/any letter to the families of deceased stating therein cause of death.

The petition said that keeping in view the spread of COVID-19 virus in India and the declaration of COVID- 19 as a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO), by way of special onetime dispensation; it has been decided to treat it as notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

The Central Government issued a revised list and norms of assistance from SDRF and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) through its MHA letter, and recommended ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs per deceased person, the petitioner claimed.

Kansal also sought the issuance of direction to respondents, respective State Governments to fulfil their obligation to take care of victims of the calamity and their family members.

He also sought the Apex Court's intervention and appropriate direction to the respondents State Governments to issue any official document stating the cause of death, to the family members of the deceased who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (ANI)