Will Centre provide ₹4 lakh to kin of Covid-19 victims? Supreme Court reserves verdict
The Supreme Court's vacation bench on Monday reserved its judgment in the case involving directions to the central government to provide ex-gratia of ₹4 lakh to the family members of those who lost their lives to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The government had told the apex court a day ago that the families in question cannot be paid the required compensation as it applies to natural disasters only, adding that states cannot afford to pay ₹4 lakh to the kin of every victim.
The central government had also filed a 183-page affidavit before the Supreme Court in response to the petitions seeking compensation and said that huge amounts of money have already been spent for needy persons to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Finances are already overstretched and directions to pay ₹4 lakh to the families of each victim would entail a huge financial liability, the government said.
At the Supreme Court hearing today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, said that the Disaster Management Act is applicable to Covid-19 patients and that the administration has already exercised several powers to handle the pandemic. "The Finance Commission has disbursed the finance to State Disaster Response and tried to help the people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic," SG Tushar Mehta said.
The government explained that the funds, which have come to the central government in the form of taxes, is a portal fund for the government and it is being allocated to various for helping the needy. "The Finance Commission has now been focusing more on mitigation and preparedness," Mehta added, "Necessary items such as improving the medical health infrastructure and the issue of providing adequate medical oxygen for the needy are now being taken care of."
The top court's vacation bench completed hearing the case on Monday but reserved its verdict. The court had earlier on May 24 issued a notice to the Centre, on hearing petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities to provide ex gratia compensation of ₹4 lakh to the family members of those who have succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.