SC asks states to roll out scheme to pay Covid ex gratia within a week
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed states and Union territories to roll out within a week the central scheme of ₹50,000 ex-gratia compensation for families of those whose deaths have been certified as Covid-19 fatalities and added this amount shall be over and above the entitlement of these persons under the financial schemes already provided by Centre, states and UTs.
A bench of justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna said, “The next of the kin of the deceased who died due to Covid-19 shall be paid ex-gratia assistance of an amount of ₹50,000, which shall be treated as ex-gratia payment under Section 12(iii) of the DMA, 2005 and which shall be minimum and which shall be over and above the compensation/amount to be paid by the Union of India/State Governments/Union Territories to be declared/provided under different benevolent schemes.”
The compensation shall not be limited to deaths that have taken place so far but will be available for those who die in future phases of Covid-19 as well, the court said.
The central scheme was formulated under the Disaster Management Authority Act, 2005 by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) pursuant to the Supreme Court judgment of June 30. Making the scheme binding upon all states and UTs, the bench held, “The NDMA, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Union of India are directed to issue guidelines to the concerned States and Union Territories incorporating the directions issued hereinabove which shall be binding to all the States/UTs.”
As per the scheme, the amount shall be payable out of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). As a first step, the states/UTs shall identify an officer at the district level within a week to receive applications and give wide publicity of the same in print, electronic media and in all offices at village, taluk, district levels. The compensation claim shall be decided within 30 days of receipt of application, the court held.
The states/UTs were further directed to set up a Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) within a week where applicants can approach on being denied the claim for compensation or in cases where death certificate showing cause of death as “due to COVID-19” is not issued to them.
The bench said, “All endeavours shall be made by the District Disaster Management Authority or District Administration and even the Grievance Redressal Committee to avoid any technicalities and all concerned authority shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered due to loss of a family member died due to Covid-19.”
While a death certificate showing cause of death as “Died due to COVID-19” will be necessary to claim the ex-gratia amount, it shall not be conclusive, the court held, adding that if other documents are available to show that death occurred within 30 days of testing Covid positive at home or in hospital or even beyond 30 days of admission at the hospital, the family members will be entitled to compensation.
“No State shall deny the ex-gratia assistance of ₹50,000, to the next of the kin of the deceased died due to Covid-19 solely on the ground that in the death certificate issued by the appropriate authority, the cause of death is not mentioned as “Died due to Covid-19,” the court observed.
The court also extended the benefit of compensation to persons who died due to suicide within 30 days of suffering Covid-19. Earlier, the Centre had excluded deaths occurring due to “poisoning, suicide, homicide, deaths due to accident” from the ambit of the ex-gratia scheme. But after the PIL petitioner Gaurav Kumar Bansal objected on the exclusion of suicide deaths and the Court insisted, the Centre had left it to the court to include suicide deaths within the list of beneficiaries.
In cases where hospitals have showed cause of death as Covid-19 in the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) issued to the authority issuing death certificate, it shall be treated as Covid-19 death, the top court said.
The bench also directed hospitals to cooperate with the applicants in providing all relevant documents to the kin of those who died due to Covid-19 in establishing their claim under the scheme. “All concerned hospitals where the patient was admitted and given treatment shall provide all the necessary documents of treatment etc. to the family member of the deceased, as and when demanded,” the bench said, adding, “it will be open for the Grievance Redressal Committee to call for such information and the concerned hospital/institution…. shall have to furnish such particulars as required for the purpose of establishing that the death was due to Covid-19.”
The GRC would consist of additional district collector, chief medical officer of health (CMOH), additional CMOH/principal or HOD Medicine of a medical college (if one existing in the district) and a subject expert. If the committee is satisfied about the cause of death due to Covid-19, it shall take remedial measures including issuance of amended official document for Covid-19 death. If the GRC is not satisfied with the applicant, it shall record reasons in its order, the bench added. In municipal corporation areas, the committee shall be headed by deputy commissioner, the bench said, adding that wide publicity shall be given about the committee and its place of operation.