Provide immediate ex gratia relief to Covid victims’ kin: SC

Updated on Dec 07, 2021 02:00 AM IST

States will have to pay compensation by Friday to the kin of those who have died due to Covid-19, the Supreme Court said on Monday, expressing dismay at the poor compliance by state governments of its October 4 order to release ₹50,000 within 30 days

The court was also not satisfied with Rajasthan, whose lawyer had no answer to the court’s query on when the compensation portal was established.
The court was also not satisfied with Rajasthan, whose lawyer had no answer to the court’s query on when the compensation portal was established.
ByAbraham Thomas

States will have to pay compensation by Friday to the kin of those who have died due to Covid-19, the Supreme Court said on Monday, expressing dismay at the poor compliance by state governments of its October 4 order to release 50,000 within 30 days.

The court was looking at thecompliance of its October 4 order after an application filed by a Gujarat lawyer showed that the western state formed a separate Covid-19 death authentication committee to validate compensation claims.

This prompted the court to review the nationwide status of its order. Based on data compiled by the central government on November 29, the court found data on compensation was either not forthcoming or that very few people had received compensation in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Goa, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The court had issued notices to the chief secretaries of these states and union territories, seeking a status reports on compliance.

Maharashtra, with 145,025 deaths, opened a portal for receiving Covid-19 compensation claims as late as on December 3 and had so far not paid compensation to a single claimant, although it received 37,000 applications.

“What were you doing till December 3 for the purpose of inviting applications and payment of compensation? You seem to have begun to work only after we passed orders,” a bench of justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna said. The judges directed the state to start making payments immediately. This direction came after the state, represented by advocate Sachin Patil , said payment will be disbursed after December 15.

West Bengal, the next state whose data was reviewed, reported 19,000 official Covid-19 deaths, but showed that only 100 out of 467 claims so far have received payment. “Only because court has compelled you to work that you are working. The fact remains that like Maharashtra, you have also not paid any compensation,” the bench remarked.

This was the result of no wide publicity being given to the order, the bench observed. “The state should not have waited to receive applications,” it said. “When 19,000 deaths are already registered with the state government, on the basis of that registration itself, the state ought to have paid compensation.”

The court was also not satisfied with Rajasthan, whose lawyer had no answer to the court’s query on when the compensation portal was established. With a registered count of 8,955 Covid-19 deaths, no figures were forthcoming on persons who have received compensation. “Tell your government to be humane,” the bench told senior advocate Manish Singhvi, who represented the state.

The lawyer for Uttar Pradesh informed that out of 22,911 Covid-19 deaths in the state, the government received 16,580 applications, out of which payment was made for 9,372 claims. In Gujarat, where the government data shows around 10,000 deaths, the state received more than 12,000 applications because the apex court allowed the kin of those who died within 30 days of being tested positive for Covid-19 to file claims by producing RT-PCR test reports or death certificates indicating the cause as Covid-19. However, compensation was paid only to 6,515 persons.

“There is no reason for the state to wait with regard to those deaths which are registered with the state authorities,” the court said. “The state must give wide publicity through local channels, print and electronic media.”

The bench will look at the status reports of other states and union territories on Friday.

The October 4 order was passed on a petition filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who moved court seeking compensation for Covid-19 deaths under the National Disaster Management Act of 2005. The central government agreed to provide a sum of 50,000, but the amount was to be paid out of the state disaster response funds and disbursed through disaster management authorities in the districts.

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