Covid ex gratia roll-out: SC summons chief secretaries of AP and Bihar

The Supreme Court is examining the implementation of state-wise Covid-19 ex gratia roll-out and has been insisting on wider publicity of the scheme to ensure the benefit reaches the targeted persons.
The Supreme Court is examining the implementation of state-wise Covid-19 ex gratia roll-out and has been insisting on wider publicity of the scheme to ensure the benefit reaches the targeted persons. (HT/File)
The Supreme Court is examining the implementation of state-wise Covid-19 ex gratia roll-out and has been insisting on wider publicity of the scheme to ensure the benefit reaches the targeted persons. (HT/File)
Updated on Jan 20, 2022 05:51 AM IST
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ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi

Taking exception to the slow pace at which Covid-19 ex gratia is being rolled out by some states, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the chief secretaries of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh to appear before it, stating that people cannot be left at the mercy of the executive.

Andhra Pradesh had recorded 14,471 Covid-19 deaths, but following the orders by the Supreme Court in June and October for providing ex gratia compensation of 50,000 for all Covid-19 deaths, the criteria for recording deaths was relaxed and fatalities that occurred within 30 days of a person testing Covid positive was entitled to compensation. As a result, Andhra received 36,205 claims as on January 16. However, the state succeeded to pay compensation to only 11,464 persons.

Unhappy over the slow pace by the state, a bench of justices MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said, “It is unfortunate that despite our earlier directions to pay compensation to kin or family members of persons who died due to Covid-19, and time and again directions issued, there is total callousness and negligence on part of Andhra Pradesh.”

Advocate Mahfooz Nazki appeared for Andhra Pradesh and informed the top court that about 31,000 claims had been found in order and will be paid shortly. The bench recorded this figure in its order and said, “It appears the state is not at all serious on compliance of this court’s order and directions issued. No justification has been shown by the counsel for not making payment to those whose applications are found to be in order. This will tantamount to disobedience of our earlier order for which the chief secretary is liable for action under the Contempt of Courts Act.”

The court had directed the chief secretary to be present at 2pm. Nazki requested the court not to issue a show cause notice and sought time to report full compliance. The bench said, “It is unfortunate that directions of this court are taken so lightly. Your chief secretary and chief minister are not above law. People are not at your mercy. This is an order by the court and you are not obliging us by following it.”

Bihar, too, came in the line of fire as despite recording deaths of 12,009, the state received only 11,095 claims while payment was made only to 9,821 persons.

The bench said, “In these matters, payment has to be made immediately as these families are in need of money. A proactive approach is needed by the administration by appointing a nodal officer to ensure claims are processed at the earliest.”

The Supreme Court had directed the chief secretary of Bihar to be present at 2pm. Advocate Akshay Shrivastava, appearing for the state, told the court that according to the latest figures, payment has been made to 10,782 persons out of more than 12,000 deaths.

“We are not ready to believe that only 12,000 persons died in Bihar. What is the actual figure? Now in many states, the actual death figure has increased because now they are honest. Tell your chief secretary to remain present,” the bench observed.

The court is examining the implementation of state-wise Covid-19 ex gratia roll-out and had been insisting on wider publicity of the scheme to ensure the benefit reaches the targeted beneficiaries.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022