HC seeks Centre, Tamil Nadu replies on proper Covid toll record
The Madras high court said on Friday there are grievances across the country that all Covid deaths may not have been appropriately recorded, seeking responses from the Union and Tamil Nadu governments on the matter.
The court said accurate recording is necessary for families to avail themselves of relief from state and central governments offered for Covid deaths and also for the future to help in studies dealing with the pandemic.
A bench comprising chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observations on a public interest litigation that sought state officials be directed to implement an effective policy to report the cause of death correctly. That should to be in accordance with the law, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines and other relevant parameters, including international standards, to enable people to benefit from government schemes without any hindrance, the plea added.
“All over the country, there are grievances that all the deaths that have been caused by the pandemic may not have been appropriately recorded...As far as this state is concerned, there are reports in some quarters that unless a positive test report was issued in respect of the patient, the subsequent death would not be recorded as a Covid death,” the court said, acknowledging that the petition had a raised an important point.
This came a day after Tamil Nadu health minister M Subramanian told reporters that Covid-19 patients who test negative at the time of death and die due to other complications such as heart attacks and breathlessness will not be counted under Covid deaths. He was responding to charges by opposition leaders that people were losing financial compensation due to Covid not being listed as the cause of mortality in death certificates. Subramanian said the state is following ICMR guidelines.
The court said it is necessary to conduct an appropriate study and, if required, by a specialised team. “It would also be fit and proper to require death certificates already issued to be revised, if necessary; if only not to deny the relief due to the family of the deceased in terms of the several schemes announced by the central and the state governments,” the bench observed.
The court said that it wasn’t attempting “to go into the specialised domain of doctors” but “it is elementary that the major ailment suffered by a person” may result in the heart being affected and subsequent death. “However, the cause of death in such a case may not be appropriately attributed to just a heart attack, but the underlying reason for the heart being attacked ought to be regarded as the real cause. So it has to be done in case of deaths triggered off by Covid-19, even if the person suffered from co-morbidities.”
The court will address the matter in detail when it comes up on June 28, by when the state has to submit a preliminary response. A copy of the petition has been directed to be sent to additional solicitor general R Sankaranarayanan so that the Union’s response can be obtained.