The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to frame guidelines to pay ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who lost their lives due to Covid-19. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, in its judgement, also directed the National Disaster Management Authority to ascertain within 6 weeks ex-gratia amount that can be paid to the family members of the deceased.
The court was hearing petitions seeking directions to the Centre to provide ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to families of people who lost their lives to Covid-19.
In an affidavit filed in the court earlier, the Centre had said that the compensation could not be paid as it would exhaust the disaster relief funds and the disaster management law mandates that relief applies only to natural disasters.
“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," the Centre said in a 183-page affidavit. It also added that denying compensation for diseases other than Covid would be “unfair".
The Centre also said due to increased health expenses and low tax revenue, it is beyond states’ budget to pay compensation for lakhs of Covid victims.
“If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for Covid-19 victims, the States may not have sufficient funds for organizing Covid-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc. Hence, the prayer of the petitioner for payment of ex-gratia to all deceased persons due to Covid-19, is beyond the fiscal affordability of the State governments,” the Centre added.
The Centre also reminded the apex court of its earlier judgment to keep away from executive policies and said the judiciary cannot decide on behalf of the centre. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday.
“It is well settled through numerous judgements of the Supreme Court that this is a matter which should be performed by the authority, to whom it has been entrusted and not one where the court will substitute its own judgement for the decision to be taken by the executive," the government reportedly said.
The Centre also said that all coronavirus deaths, regardless of where it takes place, should be recorded as Covid-19 deaths. The Centre also promised action against those doctors who fail to comply with this rule.
The report said that till now, only deaths of Covid-19 patients that took place in the hospitals were certified as Covid deaths. While those that happened at home or even at hospital parking lots, leading to a discrepancy in toll numbers.