The Union government has told the Supreme Court that it is not in the position to pay an ex-gratia compensation of ₹4 lakh to the families of those who died of COVID-19 as it would exhaust the already scarce finances of the country.
In an affidavit filed in the Apex Court, the Centre stated that the finances of the state and the central government are under strain due to increased expenditure on welfare schemes and boosting health services. It said that reduced tax revenues have been another contributing factor.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a PIL that asked for compensating the families that lost their near and dear ones to COVID.
"Thus, utilisation of scarce resources for giving ex-gratia may have unfortunate consequences of affecting the pandemic response and health expenditure in other aspects and hence cause more damage than good," the affidavit read, according to The Economic Times
What Did The Affidavit Say?
The central government stated that any such compensation would cripple the country's finances which has already been severly hit due to two phases of the pandemic. Additionally, it would compromise crucial investment in welfare schemes.
Centre also argued that the compensation cannot be paid as the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, that mandates compensation applies only to natural disasters like earthquake and flood.
Emphasising that under Section 12 of the Act, which has the provision for "Minimum Standard Relief", the government has been taking various measures to help those in need, including improving the health infrastructure and providing food security.
It also cautioned the courts from interfereing in the policy decisions of the Executive. It further reiterated that the central government acted as the authority entrusted with recommeding and formulating such guidelines.
Deaths Due To COVID To Be Certified
In the 183-page affidavit, the Centre also instructed the states to identify all coronavirus deaths rehardless of where they place, and certify as COVID deaths.
Earlier, those who died at home or even in the hhospital parking lots were not counted in the total death toll. Only those who died in the hospital were officially reported as COVID-19 deaths, leading to a discrepancy in the official number.
According to the official figures, over four lakh people have died of COVID-19 in the country.