SC refrains from directing Centre to include Covid cover under insurance scheme
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refrained from issuing any directive to the Union government to include Covid-19 in the national insurance scheme, which is being contemplated for other notified disasters.
Even as it directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to frame a scheme to pay ex-gratia for families of those who died due to Covid-19, the top court did not opine on whether the Centre should consider including the coronavirus pandemic for risk insurance coverage against natural disasters in the country.
On Wednesday, the bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah delivered its judgment on the PILs, filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, while taking note of the recommendations made by the XV Finance Commission regarding a national insurance scheme for disaster-related deaths that could be set up in partnership with an insurance company.
The judgment reproduced the Centre’s submissions that “the insurance coverage being deliberated does not cover risk insurance from pandemics or epidemics like the Covid-19”.
The bench finally recorded in its order that the Union of India is to take appropriate steps on the recommendations made in the XV Finance Commission report in consultation with other stakeholders and experts.
The judgment, however, did not specify if the national insurance scheme, which can form part of the ‘minimum standards of relief’ under the NDMA, should consider including Covid-19 as well since the infection was notified as a disaster by the Centre under the disaster management law in March 2020 itself. The bench has not made any comment on inclusion of Covid-19 under the national insurance scheme.
Advocate Bansal said: “I hope that the Union government include Covid-19 under the national insurance scheme now that the Supreme Court has clarified that reliefs under Covid-19 has to be on par with any other notified disaster. The discussions are still ongoing and the Centre must consider including Covid-19 for the risk cover, given the horrifying effects the pandemic has had on thousands of people across the country.”
In its written submissions filed on Saturday, the Union government had said that there is no policy or scheme that provides for national insurance coverage for deaths due to Covid-19, and that the new scheme also does not envisage including Covid-19.
The submissions were filed by the Centre in response to the PILs.
The Centre had informed that talks have been held between NDMA and various other functionaries of the Centre and states in 2020-21 on risk insurance coverage against natural disasters in India and the final report was also submitted in April by the working group but “the insurance coverage being deliberated does not cover risk insurance from pandemics or epidemics like the Covid-19”.