The Supreme Court on Monday heard a plea seeking ex-gratia monetary compensation of Rs 4 lakh or notified ex-gratia monetary compensation to the families of deceased, who have succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic
Senior Advocate S.B. Upadhyay appeared for the petitioner before the bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice M.R. Shah. He submitted, “We are seeking that giving effect to Section 12, a certificate needs to be issued that death is due to COVID-19… there are cases, where the bodies are being taken from mortuary to cremation ground. There needs to be a certificate. There is a letter of March 14, 2020, which says to give benefit under the NDMA Act, the disaster has to be natural one. COVID was notified as a disaster,” he added.
Thereafter, the bench sought reply from the Centre in this regard and ordered Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, who was appearing on behalf of the Centre, to file an affidavit by June 11.
Justice Shah observed, “Is there a uniform policy on death certificates, as there are many situations, where reason is not given as COVID-19. The States say they follow ICMR guidelines, produce the guidelines about the death certificates in your affidavit.”
Justice Shah also added that it is not fair for the family as reason for death is often a different one, when the cause of death is actually Novel Coronavirus.
Many times, it happens that Covid patients develop different problems like heart attack or lung infection and die due to that problem, but that problem happens because of COVID-19 and that is not reflected in the death certificate. Therefore, exact reasons must be reflected in the death certificate.
The plea sought an intervention of the Supreme Court to provide ex-gratia monetary compensation of Rs 4 lakh/notified ex-gratia monetary compensation to the families of deceased, who have succumbed to the pandemic, as per MHA letter No 32-7/2014-NDM-1 dated April 8, 2015 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, in view of Section 12 of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The plea submitted, “It is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family member/ relative on any official document.”
The plea further sought directions to the States to issue death certificates/ any letter to the families of deceased, stating therein the cause of death. The medical officers have not been conducting post mortem of the persons, who are dying due to COVID-19.
“The Centre issued a revised list and norms of assistance from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) vide MHA letter No 32-7/2014-NDM-1 dated April 8, 2015 and recommended ex-gratia compensation of Rs four lakh per deceased person, including those involved in relief operation and associate in preparedness activities subject to certification, regarding cause of death from appropriate authority.
“The Centre has notified the Novel Coronavirus as a national disaster vide letter bearing No 33-4/2020-NDM-I dated March 14, 2020 and declared COVID-19 as a notified disaster,” the plea read.
The plea further sought, “As per Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life.”
Section 12 in the Disaster Management Act, 2005 states guidelines for minimum standards of relief. The national authority shall recommend guidelines for minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include:
(i) ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood.