Compensation for Covid deaths: Centre seeks time till mid-Sept to frame rules
The Centre has sought from the Supreme Court an additional period of four weeks to frame guidelines on the grant of ex-gratia relief to families of victims of Covid-19 under the National Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2005.
According to a top court judgment on June 30, the central government was given six weeks to frame guidelines under Section 12 (ii) of the 2005 Act which talks of minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected due to Covid-19. Under this provision, the Centre needs to demarcate the categories of beneficiaries and decide on the amount of ex-gratia accordingly. The period of six weeks is supposed to end on August 11.
In an application filed in the apex court on Monday, the Centre said the NDMA is in the process of framing guidelines and is at an advanced stage of finalising the ex-gratia scheme.
“The exercise to frame appropriate guidelines for payment of ex-gratia payment to the victims of Covid-19 disaster under Section 12(iii) of the DMA is in active consideration of the NDMA and going on. This exercise, though at an active advance stage, requires a little more in-depth examination before the same is finalized and implemented,” the application read.
As per data available with the ministry of health and family welfare, over 4.14 lakh people had died due to the virus till Tuesday.
“Any accelerated formulation, in the respectful submission of the applicant, may result in undesirable results,” the Centre said.
The application requested the court to grant additional four weeks to enable the NDMA to prepare a “comprehensive and robust formulation”.
Ideally, an application filed in a disposed case is heard in the Supreme Court by the bench that passed the judgment. One of the judges of the two-judge bench who passed the order, Justice Ashok, has since retired. The judgment was authored by Justice M R Shah.
In the wake of the Centre’s application, the Chief Justice of India can decide to assign this for hearing before a new bench or the bench with only Justice Shah as a member.
The significant ruling by the court in June was based on two separate public interest litigations (PILs) filed by two lawyers, Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal. The two petitioners had highlighted a notification issued by the ministry of home affairs, the nodal ministry for DMA, on April 8, 2015, by which the government had quantified an ex-gratia compensation of ₹4 lakh to victims killed in a notified disaster for getting relief under Section 12(iii) of the 2005 Act.
Since Covid-19 was declared as a “notified” disaster on March 14, 2020, the PIL demanded the April 2015 notification to be extended to such victims.
The June 30 judgment accepted the principle that the Centre was liable under Section 12(iii) of DMA to provide compensation. On the quantum, the court left it to the wisdom of NDMA to determine the amount by taking into consideration the availability and requirement of funds under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for meeting other priorities and fund requirements under other heads of prevention, preparation and mitigation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The court also directed the Centre to frame a “simplified procedure or guidelines” for issuing an official document or death certificate to the family of those who succumbed to the virus.
“If a person has died after he was found to be Covid positive and he has died within two to three months, either in the hospital or outside the hospital or at home, the death certificate or official document must be issued to the family members of the deceased stating the cause of death as ‘died due to Covid-19’,” the bench had remarked.