The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 30 June, directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to lay down guidelines for minimum standard of relief including payment of ex gratia assistance to family members of persons who succumbed to COVID-19, reported Live Law India.
"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. The reasonable amount to be provided is left to the wisdom of national authority."Supreme Court
The apex court bench led by Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah instructed the NDMA to have the guidelines in place within 6 weeks.
The court added that if the NDMA is unsuccessful in the task, then it has failed to perform its duties under section 12 of the Disaster Management Act.
"There is nothing on record to show the guidelines for the minimum standard of relief, since section 12 is mandatory, national authority has to prescribe guidelines which includes ex gratia. By not prescribing guidelines national authority has failed to perform its job under Section 12 of the Act," the judgment said.Supreme Court
The court also stated that death certificates issued to the family members should have the date and cause of death as COVID-19. Pertinently, the court said that there should also be facility for correcting the cause of death if the family is not satisfied.
The petitioners in the case, advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, had sought directions to the Centre to provide ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the family members of COVID victims and a request for simplifying the process for issuance of death certificates.
Can’t Pay Rs 4 Lakh to Families of COVID Victims: Centre Tells SC
Earlier on 19 June, the Centre informed the SC that giving an ex gratia payment of Rs. 4 lakh to kin of each COVID-19 deceased would not be possible as rules of disaster management only apply to natural calamities like floods and earthquakes.
In its response, the Centre added that if Rs 4 lakh is paid to the family member of every COVID-19 victim, then it would deplete all funds under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
“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.”Centre’s affidavit before the Supreme Court.
Seeking to explain its stance on the matter, the Centre said that spending all available funds under SDRF would leave no money for mounting an effective response against the virus, 'including provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc.'
Nearly four lakh people have died of COVID-19 and compensation for each of them would be beyond the 'fiscal affordability of governments,' the Centre said.