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Centre files detailed affidavit in Supreme Court on Covid-19 death certificates

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The Union Government of India has filed a detailed Affidavit before the Supreme Court regarding the issuance of Covid-19 death certificates.

The Affidavit was filed by Govind Mohan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, on September 11.

The Centre told the Supreme Court that the Health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have come out with guidelines for issuing an “official document” for Covid-related deaths.

Since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, the ICMR and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have been issuing specific guidelines to States/UTs based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines and best global practices on reporting Covid deaths, said the affidavit.

Relevant officers in States/UTs have also been trained on correct recording of deaths related to Covid-19. The Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 539 and 554 of 2021 directed the Central Government to issue simplified guidelines for the issuance of Official Document to the family members of the deceased, who died due to Covid-19. The Court had directed that such guidelines may also provide the remedy to family members for correction of Medical Certificate on Cause of Death/Official Document issued by the appropriate authority.

Guiding Principles

i. Covid-19 cases, for the purpose of these Guidelines, are those which are diagnosed through a positive RT-PCR/ Molecular Tests/ RAT OR clinically determined through investigations in a hospital/ in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted in the hospital/ in-patient facility.

ii. Deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide or due to accident will not be considered as Covid-19 deaths, even if Covid-19 is an accompanying condition.

Scenario based approach and interventions

i. Covid-19 cases which are not resolved and have died either in hospital settings or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 & 4 A has been issued to the registering authority as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969, will be treated as a Covid-19 death. Registrar General of India (RGI) will issue necessary guidelines to Chief Registrars of all States/UTs. 
ii. As per the study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 95 percent deaths take place within 25 days of being tested Covid positive. To make the scope broader and more inclusive, deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a Covid-19 case, will be treated as ‘deaths due to COVID-19, even if the death takes place outside the hospital/ in-patient facility. 
iii. However, a Covid-19 case, while admitted in the hospital / in-patient facility, and who continued as the same admission beyond 30 days, and died subsequently, shall be treated as a Covid-19 death. 
iv. In cases where the MCCD is not available or the next of kin of the deceased is not satisfied with the cause of death given in MCCD (Form 4/4A), and which are not covered by the aforesaid scenarios, the States/ UTs shall notify a Committee at district level consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Additional CMOH/ Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one exists in the district) and a subject expert, for issuance of the Official Document for Covid-19 Death.

The Committee will follow the procedure outlined below:

a. The next of kin of the deceased shall submit a petition to the District Collector for issuance of the appropriate Official Document for Covid-19 Death. 
b. The Official Document for Covid-19 Death will be issued in the format annexed to these Guidelines by the aforesaid district-level Committee after due examination and verification of all facts. 
c. The Official Document for Covid-19 Death shall also be communicated to Chief Registrars of States/UTs and Registrar of Birth and Death, who issued the death certificate. 
d. The Committee shall also examine the grievances of the next of kin of the deceased, and propose necessary remedial measures, including issuance of amended Official Document for Covid-19 Death after verifying facts in accordance with these guidelines. 
e. The applications for issuance of Official Document for Covid-19 Death and for redressal of grievances shall be disposed off within 30 days of submission of the application/ grievance.

A copy of the affidavit further stated that the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI) has also issued a circular on September 3, 2021, to provide a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to the next of kin of the deceased.

“Under section 10 of the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969, the medical practitioner attending the deceased at the time of last illness, issues a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 for hospital in-patients or Form 4A for non institutional deaths. The Registrar under State/UT Rule (Model Rule 7 framed under section 10(3) of the RBD Act) is required to forward Form 4/4A to the Chief Registrar or the officer specified by him in this behalf by the 10 of the month immediately following the month to which the certificates relate”, reads circular.

The Registrar General of India will issue necessary guidelines to chief registrars of all states and union territories in this regard. The Registrar may also mention the name of the next of kin of deceased along with the date in the remarks column of the respective death register to whom the copy of the MCCD has been provided.

The Supreme Court in its June 30 order had specified the need for such a Committee to reduce hassles being caused to the common man. This Committee to be constituted at the district level will comprise of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Additional CMOH/ Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one exists in the district) and a subject expert.

The apex court had also directed the Centre to submit any action report on the other guidelines as referred in the earlier judgment authored by Justice Shah, and comprised of Justice (Now Retired) Ashok Bhushan on June 30, 2021. The Supreme Court had also  directed the Centre to frame guidelines to pay an ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who died due to Covid-19.

The Court further directed the Centre to frame guidelines for payment of ex-gratia compensation for Covid-19 deaths under the National Disaster Management Act 2005. The Court had granted six weeks for the Centre to frame the scheme under the 2005 Act and specify the amount since Covid-19 was notified as a disaster under the 2005 Act.

The Supreme Court Judgement  had come on two separate pleas filed by lawyers Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of Novel Coronavirus victims, as provisioned under the Act.

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