The Supreme Court, earlier on May 24 had issued a notice to the Centre, on hearing petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities to provide ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs to the family members of those who have succumbed to COVID-19, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Replying to the notice issued, the Central government said that ex gratia amount cannot be paid due to financial constraints and other factors. However, the Centre government made it clear that it had already made payments and a lot of government measures had been introduced for the needy persons.
In its affidavit before the Apex Court, the Centre also submitted that the Central government and all the state governments have spent a huge amount for needy persons to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and their finances are overstretched.
According to a petition filed in the Supreme Court, keeping in view the spread of COVID-19 virus in India and the declaration of COVID- 19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), by way of special onetime dispensation, it has been decided to treat it as notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
The Central Government issued a revised list and norms of assistance from SDRF and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) through its MHA letter and recommended ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs per deceased person, the petitioner claimed.
The petition also sought the issuance of direction to respondents, respective State Governments to fulfil their obligation to take care of victims of the calamity and their family members.
The lawyers – Reepak Kansal, and Gaurav Kumar Bansal– in their petition, filed before the Supreme Court, sought immediate appropriate directions to the concerned authorities to pay financial help or ex gratia amount of Ra 4 lakh, as laid down by the Central government in its statute and rules to the family members of the deceased, who succumbed to COVID-19 pandemic.
Pointing out that “the medical officers have not been conducting post mortem of the persons who are dying due to COVID-19”, Reepak Kansal said, “It is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family member/relative on any official document.”