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Is the Centre Legally Obligated to Pay Ex-Gratia for COVID Deaths?

The Centre has been reluctant to commit to any compensation for COVID deaths, given the magnitude of the death toll.

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The Supreme Court in its ruling on Wednesday, 30 June, made it abundantly clear that as far as COVID is concerned, it is a ‘disaster' under the Disaster Management Act (DMA) of 2005. It further pulled up the National Disaster Management Authority on doing the needful, by providing ex-gratia compensation to families of COVID victims.

The top court's response comes after a batch of petitions sought directions to the state and central governments to provide an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh, sighting Section 12 of the DMA.

However, the Centre has been reluctant to commit to any compensation for COVID deaths, given the magnitude of the death toll, which is nearly 4 lakh according to official figures.

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The Supreme Court in its ruling stated that the language used in Section 12 of the DMA regarding ex-gratia compensation is very plain and unambiguous.

So, is the Centre legally obligated to pay compensation for COVID deaths? What arguments has the Centre made against it, and is it financially feasible?

To answer these questions, we spoke to former Economic Affairs Secretary and Finance Secretary of India Subhash Garg and Karan Tripathi, The Quint’s Legal Consultant.

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