The Supreme Court on Monday, October 4, said that no state should deny the ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000, as recommended by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), to the kin of persons who died of COVID-19 on the sole ground that the death certificate does not mention it as the cause of death. The bench said that the compensation would be disbursed from state disaster relief funds within 30 days of submitting application and cause of death being certified as of COVID-19.
It also ordered the states and the Union government to give wide publicity to the scheme in print media and electronic media. Approving the NDMA guidelines, a bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna said that in cases of death certificates already issued and a family member being aggrieved, it would be open for them to approach appropriate authority. On production of essential documents like RT-PCR test results, the concerned authorities can modify death certificates, the apex court said, adding that if still aggrieved, the members can approach the Grievance Redressal Committee.
"No states shall deny ex gratia on ground that in the death certificate cause of death is not mentioned that 'died due to COVID'," the bench said. The Supreme Court also ordered that the Grievance Redressal Committee can examine medical records of deceased patients and take a call within 30 days and order the compensation.
The NDMA had earlier recommended that Rs 50,000 be given to the kin of those who died of COVID-19. It had said that ex-gratia assistance will also be given to the kin of those who died of the virus due to involvement in COVID-19 relief operations or activities associated with the preparedness for dealing with the pandemic. The court had earlier asked the Union government to consider the kin of those who died by suicide within 30 days of testing positive for the coronavirus, to also be eligible for compensation.
The government had said that the NDMA had issued the guidelines on September 11 in compliance with the directions of the apex court given on June 30 wherein it had directed the authority to recommend guidelines for ex-gratia assistance.
In its affidavit filed on a batch of pleas by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and intervenors represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi seeking ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims, the Union government had said the NDMA has already started discussions/consultations on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission regarding insurance intervention.