Supreme Court: After the Court was approached seeking direction to the Government to provide notified ex-gratia monitory compensation of Rs.4,00,000/- to the families of deceased who succumbed to COVID-19, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah*, JJ has issued directions asking the National Disaster Management Authority to make uniform guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19.
According to the official figure, the pandemic has caused more than 3,85,000 deaths, the same is likely to increase further.
“… these deaths have affected the families from all classes – the rich and poor, professionals and informal workers, and traders and farmers. It has also affected the kins as well as elderly members, old parents. Many have lost the sole bread earner.”
Noticing that it is the mandatory statutory duty cast upon the National Authority under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief which shall include ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life, the Court held that,
“… not recommending any Guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life due to Covid-19 pandemic, while recommending other guidelines for the minimum standards of relief, it can be said that the National Authority has failed to perform its statutory duty cast under Section 12 and therefore a writ of mandamus is to be issued to the National Authority to recommend appropriate guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life due to Covid-19 pandemic while recommending guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster/Covid-19 pandemic as mandatory under Section 12 of DMA 2005.”
Here are the direction issued by the Court:
1) National Disaster Management Authority 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 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.
However, what reasonable amount to be offered towards ex gratia assistance is left to the wisdom of National Authority which may consider determining the amount taking into consideration the observations made hereinabove, such as, requirement/availability of the fund under the NDRF/SDRF for other reliefs and the priorities determined by the National Authority/Union Government and the fund required for other minimum standards of relief and fund required for prevention, preparedness, mitigation and recovery and other reliefs to carry out the obligation under DMA 2005.
This needs to be done within a period of six weeks from today;
2) The Appropriate Authority is directed to issue simplified guidelines for issuance of Death Certificates/official document stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19.
“… it is the duty of the every authority to issue accurate/correct death certificates stating the correct and accurate cause of death, so that the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19 may not face any difficulty in getting the benefits of the schemes that may be declared by the Government for the death of the deceased, who died due to Covid-19. In the death certificate also, if a person has died due to Covid-19 and/or any other complications/disease due to Covid-19, it should be specifically mentioned in the death certificate.”
Such guidelines may also provide the remedy to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19 for correction of the death certificate/official document issued by the appropriate authority, if they are not satisfied with the cause of death mentioned in the death certificate/official document issued by the appropriate authority; and
3) The Union of India to take appropriate steps on the recommendations made by the Finance Commission in its XVth Finance Commission Report bearing in mind paragraph 8.131 in consultation with other stakeholders and experts.
[Reepak Kansal v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 443, order dated 30.06.2021]
*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah
For Petitioner(s): Petitioner-in-person, S.B. Upadhyay, Sr. Adv., Reepak Kansal, Adv., Yadunandan Bansal, Adv., Nishant Kumar, Adv., Prince Arora, Adv., Shahnaz Rahman, Adv., Harisha S.R., AOR
For Respondent(s): Tushar Mehta, SG, Aishwarya Bhati, ASG, Rajat Nair, Adv., Amit Sharma, Adv., B.V. Balram Das, AOR, Chirag M. Shroff, AOR