The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Union government must pay compensation to the families of those who died due to COVID-19. However, it left it on the Centre to decide on the quantum of compensation. The court granted the National Disaster Management Authority six weeks to decide on the compensation amount and frame the guidelines.
A division bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice MR Shah said, “We direct NDMA to form guidelines for ex-gratia compensation for family members of persons who succumbed to COVID, as per minimum standards of relief. What reasonable amount is to be provided is left to the wisdom of the authority.”
The court’s diktat came in response to a public interest litigation seeking Rs 4 lakh compensation for the families of those dying due to COVID-19. The apex court also said death certificates for those who had died of COVID-19 must include the date and cause of death and there should be mechanisms in place to correct the cause of death if the family is not satisfied.
Centre unwilling to provide compensation
Earlier, the Union government had 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. It had said that state governments were 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 had 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.”
Nearly 4 lakh COVID-19 deaths
The health ministry on Wednesday informed that 45,951 fresh cases of COVID-19 have been reported in India in the past 24 hours. The addition of the fresh cases has taken the COVID-19 case tally past 3.03 crore.
Also, 817 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 3,98,454.
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