Case BriefsSupreme Court

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

Know Thy Judge | Justice M. R. 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

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., imposed costs on the petitioner while rejecting his petition to grant waiver of rent for all tenants and related reliefs.

In the present petition, following are the reliefs sought:

  1. Waiver of Rent for all the tenants
  2. Constitution of ‘Rent Resolution Commission’,
  3. Constitution of ‘Rent Auxiliary Fund’
  4. Issue directions to the Delhi Police to make amendments to the standard operating procedure where, if their Control Room officer receives any distress call on ‘100 or 112’ from a tenant or a landlord, as the case may be, the officer shall connect the caller, after receiving her consent, to ‘Rent Resolution Commission’
  5. One time amnesty to the landlords or tenants, and
  6. setting aside order dated 17th May, 2020 passed by respondent 1/UOI

Essence of the petition

Petition asks landlords to forgo consideration for their premises already retained by the tenant.

The powers/discretion for waiving of such consideration (rent) vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled to the same. This Court will be extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract.

Court declined to entertain the prayer for waiver of the rent and added that,

It ought to be kept in mind that Court cannot do charity at the cost of others. Charity beyond law is an injustice to others.

If the landlord is entitled to receive the rent/consideration in accordance with law as per the contractual agreement entered between the parties concerned, then, the Court cannot, by a general order of the nature sought by the petitioner, waive such amount.

Rent Resolution Commission

In Court’s opinion it sees no reason to constitute ‘Rent Resolution Commission’ and provide for all the mechanism of appointment of the Members thereof, procedure for removal thereof, fixation of salary thereof etc.

Moreover such issues are policy oriented and not for the Court to decided as the same lies in the legislative/executive domain.

Further the Court added that, it cannot pass general directions that would result in waiver of contractual or property rights or establishment of adjudicatory bodies.

Fallacy in the Case

Petitioner seeking an order placing the burden of proof on the landlord with regard to the financial situation of the tenant is the fallacy in the matter.

Further, petitioner was unable to justify as to how a landlord can be asked to provide such evidence which may not be within his/ her knowledge at all. The petitioner has sought to postulate a scheme based upon his own understanding, but without sufficient thought as to the modalities or the consequences of the proposal.

One time amnesty to landlords or tenants

For grant of one time amnesty requires various factors to be considered and the same will be a policy decision to be taken by the Government authorities.

Court is not the maker of the law, and cannot draft a brand new law, except where the law is silent or where some lacuna is to be filled up.

Presumption

It has been presumed that the tenants alone are suffering from financial hardship or from the economic consequences of pandemic and lockdown, however, it ought to be kept in mind that even the landlords can be financially dependent on the rent.

Thus, whenever a landlord expects eviction of the premises on the basis of non-payment of the rent, in such eventuality, the Court has to appreciate the proved facts of that particular case.

Thus in view of the above the Court does not see any reason to interfere with the order dated 17th May, 2020 passed by UOI.

Concluding its analysis for the above matter, Court stated that the present petition does not appears to be a public interest litigation, but it is publicity interest litigation.

Proposals made by the petitioner are ill- conceived, as he does not appear to have thought about their practicability or their effect on other stakeholders.

Cost of Rs 10,000 have been imposed on the petition for abuse of process of the Court and the said amount will be utilized for COVID relief and welfare measures. [Gaurav Jain v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 652 , decided on 15-06-2020]