COVID-19 deaths: No State should deny ₹50,000 ex gratia to kin, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday said State governments should not deny the ex gratia compensation of ₹50,000 to the families of persons who died of COVID-19 merely on the ground that their death certificates do not show the virus as the cause of death.

A Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah underscored this point while approving the guidelines proposed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) under the Disaster Management Act for grant of ex gratia to the kin of people who died of COVID-19.

Direct bank transfer

The guidelines, part of an affidavit filed by the Home Ministry, has tasked the States to provide the relief from their States Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The District Disaster Management Authorities would make the disbursements. Claims would be settled within 30 days of submission of documents. The disbursement would be made via Aadhaar-linked direct bank transfer procedure.

District-level committees would deal with grievances regarding certification of death and issue amended documents.

The court said these committees should be able to directly access hospital medical records to ascertain claims. The court said this would help resolve cases in which families claim ex gratia but do not have medical records of COVID treatment to show.

The committees would record the reasons for rejecting claims.

The payment would continue for future COVID deaths until further notification.

The guidelines have said families of those who committed suicide within 30 days of a COVID-positive diagnosis would be also be eligible for ex gratia.

The court directed the NDMA and the Ministry of Health to issue the guidelines to have the directions implemented by the States.

On June 30, the court, in a judgment based on a petition filed by advocate Gaurav Bansal, had ordered the NDMA to frame uniform guidelines for payment of ex gratia.

Total financial burden

The government has fortified itself against the likelihood of future criticism about disbursing ₹50,000 and not more by saying “it is not possible to ascertain the total financial burden emanating from the ex gratia assistance. Financial prudence demands that we plan in a manner that assistance can be provided to a large number of people, should the number of deaths rise”.

The NDMA guidelines had noted that States had already been incurring large expenditure from the SDRF on various aspects of COVID-19 prevention, management and response.

The Centre too had, from the national budget, announced several measures to prevent the virus, including the vaccination drive and providing for the welfare and support of those affected like orphaned children and the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana package.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 5:56:23 AM |

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