Supreme Court: Considering the submissions by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on fixing an outer limit on fixing claims for compensation in case the death occurred due to COVID-19, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has fixed the outer limit of sixty days from the date of the order I.e. 24.03.2022 to file the claims for compensation in case the death occurred due to COVID-19 prior to 20.03.2022. For future deaths, ninety days’ time is provided from the date of death due to COVID-19 to file the claim for compensation. However, the earlier order to process the claims and to make the actual payment of compensation within a period of thirty days from the date of receipt of claim to be continued.

It was submitted before the Court that more than nine months have passed after the first judgment and order and thereafter four months have passed after the subsequent judgment and order dated 29.11.2021 passed by this Court and by now approximately 7,38,610 claims have been received by the concerned States. The Court agreed with the submission that by now all genuine claimants must have approached the authorities by establishing their claims and that if there is no outer time limit fixed, then the process of receiving the claims would go endless and, in that case, there is all possibility of submitting false claims.

The Court. However, refused to accept the suggestion of four weeks’ time by the Solicitor General and observed that this time was too short as the family would need some reasonable time to recover from the death and sorrow and filing the claim.

The Court, further, clarified that in case of extreme hardship any claimant could not make an application within the time prescribed, it will be open for the claimant to approach the Grievance Redressal Committee and make the claim through Grievance Redressal Committee which shall be considered by the Grievance Redressal Committee on case to case basis and if it is found by the Grievance Redressal Committee that a particular claimant could not make the claim within the stipulated time which was beyond their control his/her case may be considered on merits.

Th Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Home Affairs – Union of India and all the concerned States have hence, been directed to give wide publicity to the present order through print and electronic media so that the claimants can know the time limit fixed by this Court for making claims. Such advertisement shall be published fortnightly for a period of six weeks from the date of this order.

On the issue of false claims of ex-gratia compensation of Rs.50,000/- by the kin/family member of those, who died due to COVID-19, the Court observed that nobody can be permitted to misuse the same and it is also against morality and is unethical, which can never be accepted. The Court, hence, directed the NDMA/Union of India, through Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to conduct a random scrutiny of the 5% of the claim applications filed in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra shall be made at the first instance. If it is found that anybody has made a fake claim, the same shall be considered under Section 52 of the Act, 2005 and liable to be punished accordingly.

[Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 357, decided on 24.03.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

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