Written by: Tanvi Mishra (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The honorable Supreme Court of India reserved its verdict on the matter of granting ex gratia compensation to the kin of the covid-19 deceased.
The petitioners want the Central government to form a uniform frame for granting compensation of Rs. 4 lakhs for the families of those who succumbed to covid-19. The government has been using financial constraint as a ground for not meeting the constitutional obligations. The court gave three days to both sides for making submissions.
It was submitted by the petitioners that Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act stipulated that the National Disaster Management Authority had to frame guidelines. Since it is a statutory provision and so the government cannot take the plea of financial constraints. Reference was taken from the case of Swaraj Abhiyan v. Union of India in which it was stated the plea of financial difficulty cannot be taken into consideration for the non-fulfillment of any statutory provision.
Senior Advocate SB Upadhyay contended that even the insurance cover is only for the doctors who are on regular rolls but not for the contractual ones. According to Advocate Gaurav Bansal, there is a different scenario in rural areas. The male is only responsible for looking after his whole family which leaves the family in a vulnerable state after his death. Advocate Sumeer Sodhi also mentioned how different states were paying different amounts of compensation. He submitted that there is an urgent need to bring a uniform amount of compensation for every individual to provide justice.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta then commenced with his submissions. He appeared for the Union of India. He contended that the covid-19 pandemic is somewhere different from the other natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, etc. This time the finance commission is dealing with this whole situation to find a long-term solution rather than focusing on providing uniform compensation to each and every individual. He stated that though the figures of compensation were not static, the focus was on “mitigation, preparedness and response”.
The Solicitor General noted that crematorium workers were not covered under the insurance policy and the same would be considered by the Central government. He replied to the court that ex-gratia compensation would be provided but it would be done outside the ambit of Section 12. He claimed that we don’t have a lack of funds but right now we are trying to utilize them on food, infrastructure, etc. i.e. adopting a holistic approach.
The bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah heard the whole matter and also brought up the issue on the death certificate issuance. The court stated that the certification process is complicated and questioned if it can be simplified. The bench also asked about those whose death certificates have already been issued with no covid-19. How can it be corrected and if not then how will the compensation be provided to their families. The court observed that it is very difficult for an affected person to get help and justice. The matter was concluded.