Press Trust of india

SC gives Centre 4 more weeks to frame guidelines for ex-gratia to families of COVID victims

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted 4-week extension to the Centre to frame guidelines for ex-gratia compensation to families of those who died of COVID-19.

The Centre told the top court that the exercise of framing the guidelines is at an advanced stage and therefore some more time is required for in-depth examination before it is finalised and implemented.

During the brief hearing, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati about compliance of other directions given by the court in its verdict on June 30.

Bhati told the bench that she will file an affidavit within two weeks giving the entire details of compliance of other directions issued by the court.

The bench then ordered that time be extended by four weeks for compliance of the direction on framing of the guidelines.

It directed the Centre to file a status report on compliance of other directions of the court and listed the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The apex court had in its June 30 verdict directed NDMA to recommend within six weeks appropriate guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons who died due to COVID-19.

The Centre has moved an application seeking some more time to frame the guidelines on the ground that the exercise which was in active consideration of the NDMA was at an advanced stage and requires a little more in-depth examination.

In its June 30 verdict, the top court had also ordered steps to simplify guidelines for issuance and correction of “death certificates/official documents, stating the exact cause of death, that is, ‘Death due to Covid-19’” for enabling dependents to get benefits of welfare schemes.

The top court’s verdict had come on two separate pleas filed by lawyers Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the Act.

Four intervenors, who had lost their family members due to COVID have also moved the top court through advocate Sumeer Sodhi contending that there cannot be any discrimination in the amounts being paid by different states to family members of those, who had succumbed to the deadly infection.

The apex court in its verdict, however, had noted the “peculiarity and the impact and effect” of the pandemic and said that it cannot order payment of Rs 4 lakh as ex-gratia compensation which should be decided by the NDMA as there was a need to “focus simultaneously on prevention, preparedness, mitigation and recovery, which calls for a different order of mobilization of both financial and technical resources”.

“We direct the NDMA to recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, as mandated under Section 12(iii) of Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2005 for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disaster – Covid 19 Pandemic, over and above the guidelines already recommended for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by Covid-19,” it had said.

It had also directed the Centre to take appropriate steps on recommendations of the Finance Commission on providing insurance cover for deaths caused by Covid.

The direction had come after the Centre said that presently there was no “guideline/policy/scheme in NDMA which relates to National Insurance mechanism that may be used to pay for disaster related deaths due to COVID”.

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