On Monday, June 21, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on pleas demanding an ex-gratia compensation of ₹4 lakh to be given to the families of those who have died due to COVID.
The apex court made the decision after a two-hour-long hearing by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocate S. B. Upadhyay and several other lawyers. The court asked the parties to file written submission with the next three days. Also, the Centre received specific directions to simplify the process of granting death certificates to the dependents of those who have died of COVID-19, reported The News Minute.
The court asked the government whether the reason of death could be given as COVID-19 in the certificate if the family could produce a COVID-19 report, no matter whether the patient died in a hospital or outside. The court pointed out that some patients were not even given their medical records.
Mehta reiterated the government's stand that any lapse in stating COVID-19 as the cause of demise in a death certificate would have penal consequences for those found responsible, including the certifying doctor. The government stated that deaths with the diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of comorbidities, have to be certified as pandemic deaths. The only exception to the rule was when there was a clear alternative cause of death, for example, accidental trauma, poisoning, etc.
What Had The Centre Said Earlier?
Earlier, the Centre had informed the top court that it would be impossible for them to pay an ex-gratia compensation of ₹4 lakh to each family that has lost any member to the pandemic as the finances of state governments and the Centre are under severe strain. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Centre filed an affidavit before that. The affidavit stated that the Centre had taken several measures to ensure fast and significant changes in the health infrastructure and food safety for citizens. The Centre took these measures through the Minimum Standard Relief under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Argument: For and Against
However, one of the petitioners, Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, had argued that according to the order dated April 8, 2015, under Section 12(iii) of the same Act, every family that has lost a member due to a disaster is entitled to receive an ex-gratia compensation of ₹ 4 lakh. Since COVID has been declared a disaster, the rule should apply if a family loses a member due to the virus.
Appearing for another petitioner named Reepak Kansal, the counsel had argued many people were dying due to the pandemic, and without issuing their death certificate, the affected families would be unable to claim the compensation. Kansal also mentioned in his plea that the states should be responsible for looking after the COVID victims and their families.