Responding to a public interest litigation seeking compensation for the families of those dying due to COVID-19, the Union government has told the Supreme Court that Rs 4 lakh compensation cannot be provided for COVID deaths as it would put an unbearable financial burden on states.
The Centre has said that state governments are already short of funds due to poor tax collection amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy.
In an affidavit submitted to the court, the Union government said that compensation of Rs 4 lakh cannot be paid to victims of COVID-19 as the disaster management law mandating compensation applies only to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, etc.
The Centre also said, “If ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to COVID-19, the entire amount of SDRF may possibly be spent on this item alone, and indeed the total expenditure may go up further.”
According to the health ministry’s latest data, 1,576 COVID-19 related deaths were reported by the ministry during this period. The addition of the fresh fatalities has taken India’s death toll due to the deadly virus to 3,86,713.
Discrepancy in COVID death toll
With several media reports highlighted a significant discrepancy in the COVID-19 death figures provided by the state governments, the Centre has said that it has instructed states that all deaths due to the deadly viral infection should be recorded as COVID deaths, irrespective of the place of death.
The Union government has also submitted to the apex court that action will be taken against medicos who fail to comply with the norm. Till now, only deaths of COVID patients that took place in hospitals were certified as Covid, not the ones that happened at home or even at hospital parking lots, leading to a discrepancy in fatality figures that ran into lakhs.
The petitioner in the PIL contended that death certificates of victims do not mention COVID as the cause of death, making it difficult for families to get compensation.
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