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Delhi HC overrules LG objection to form committees for studying compensation to families of Covid dead

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The Delhi High Court has overruled the objections of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal against the constitution of a High-Powered Committee (HPC) by Delhi Government for probing cases where deaths have been caused due to alleged shortage of medical oxygen supply during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in the national capital.

The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh was on Tuesday dealing with a plea seeking direction to the government to operationalise the committee, as a stalemate continued on account of differences in opinion between the AAP-led government and the L-G.

Senior Counsel Rahul Mehra and Advocate Gautam Narayan, representing the Delhi Government, assured the Bench that the Committee would not attribute any liability for any fault or negligence on part of any hospital.

In addition, the Delhi Government stated that the compensation will be paid and absorbed by the Government alone; and further that the criteria for determining compensation will be open to scrutiny.

The Bench was further assured that the tasks of the Committee would not overlap with that of the sub-committee constituted by the apex court with regard to allocation and supply of medical oxygen and other related issues.

The Bench, in light of the submissions made, observed that it sees no difficulty in the constitution of HPC by the Delhi Government to discharge of its assigned role.

The Bench, while stating that it was not necessary to await the order of the Apex Court with regard to the grant of ex-gratia compensation to the kins of persons who lost lives during the pandemic as fixed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), made it clear that in case an amount greater than what is already being paid as ex-gratia is fixed by the NDMA, the same would also be payable to the victims.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Lieutenant Governor, urged the Bench not to pass any order in relation to constitution of HPC; and to await the guidelines decided by NDMA over grant of ex-gratia compensation, in pursuance of the top court’s order.

The Court opined that the committee appointed by the Supreme Court is looking on the issues at the macro level, while the HPC by the Delhi Government would look into the situation at micro level.

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A plea was filed through Advocates Yogesh Aggarwal and Kamal Jindal by the widow of a 34-year old man, who lost his life due to Covid-19 at a private hospital in Delhi. The plea stated that the husband of the petitioner did not suffer any other co-morbidities, and that his discharge summary specifies cardiac arrest as cause of death without mentioning any basic details.

“The death summary and the discharge summary of the deceased seem to be a general one, issued without adhering to and in complete contradiction of proper medical practice and instructions issued in respect of dealing with the Covid19 patients,”

-the petition claimed.

The plea sought a direction to forthwith commence the functioning of HPC proposed to be formed by the Delhi Government to examine cases where deaths were claimed to have occurred on account of deficiency or negligence on part of the government and its instrumentalities due to Covid-19, as also to decide the compensation to be awarded on case-to-case basis.

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