The Supreme Court has ordered the Centre to respond to the Court’s order on a uniform policy for issuing death certificates to COVID victims in order to provide ex-gratia assistance to their families.
The Supreme Court on Monday requested the Centre’s response to petitions seeking Rs 4 lakh in ex-gratia compensation for families of COVID-19 victims and said that there should be a common protocol for providing death certificates to people who succumb to the deadly virus.
A vacation bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah further requested that the Centre present the ICMR guidelines on death certificates for COVID-19 victims, stating that such papers should be issued in a standard manner.
Aishwarya Bhati, standing for the Centre, requested time to acquire instructions and produce all necessary documentation related to the plan under Section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter dated April 8, 2015, addressing compensation.
Policies or recommendations regulating the issuance of death certificates for patients infected with COVID19, including those published by the ICMR, may also be brought to the attention of the court. The bench permitted the learned ASG 10 days to produce a rebuttal affidavit, as requested and set the case for further hearing on June 11.
The Supreme Court was hearing two distinct petitions that asked the court to order the Centre and states to pay Rs 4 lakh in compensation to the families of coronavirus victims, as required by the Act, and to establish a common process for issuing death certificates.
The bench stated that until there was a unified procedure for issuing any official document or death certificate declaring that the cause of death was COVID, the victims’ families would be unable to collect benefits from any compensation system that was offered.
Justice Shah questioned Bhati whether there is a common policy on death certificates because there are numerous cases when the cause of death is not COVID.
According to the bench, state government officials claim to be following ICMR standards.
So you (the Centre) should present the ICMR guidelines to us and inform us if there is any standard policy regarding the issuing of death certificates to COVID-19 victims, the bench remarked.
In many cases, Justice Shah pointed out, deaths are caused by lung infections or heart problems, but it is possible that COVID-19 was the cause of death, which is not noted on death certificates.
If kin of COVID-19 victims is to be compensated, they will have to run from pillar to post. The bench stated that it is not fair to the family because the cause of death is frequently misrepresented when the death is genuinely caused by COVID.
At the commencement, in-person attorney Gaurav Kumar Bansal stated that any family whose member perished as a result of a catastrophe is entitled to ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh under section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
He stated that, in accordance with section 12 (iii) of the Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order on April 8, 2015, which included an updated list of rules as well as help from the State Disaster Response Fund and the National Disaster Response Fund.
Bansal stated that as COVID-19 was designated a catastrophe, any family whose member died as a result of the catastrophe is entitled to ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh, as per a decision dated April 8, 2015.
Hundreds of others (such as healthcare workers, police officers, and municipal workers) who were active in relief efforts or fighting the COVID-19 virus also died, he claimed, and in many cases, these people were the family’s “only breadwinner.”
He went on to say that if a person dies as a result of COVID-19, their family members rush from pillar to post seeking all types of assistance.
Senior counsel S B Upadhyay, who is representing petitioner Reepak Kansal, who has filed a similar plea, stated that COVID-19 is causing a huge number of fatalities and that death certificates must be given before they can seek compensation under section 12 (iii) of the Act.
The bench questioned Upadhyay on whether any of the states had paid any payments.
Upadhyay said that money has not been paid since the compensation program expired last year and that a comparable system should be created because many families have experienced losses as a result of the epidemic.
He said that another letter, dated March 14, 2020, said that in order to get benefits under the NDMA Act, the catastrophe must be natural, and COVID had been declared a catastrophe.
According to the bench, the administration must devise a plan in this respect.
In his petition, Kansal argues that states should be required to fulfill their obligations to care for COVID-19 victims and their families.
According to the petition, hospitals are failing to do post-mortems on people who are dying as a result of COVID-19.
“The state and its various agencies have a constitutional and legal commitment to care for victims of the disaster and their family members, in the capacity of a guardian or parent to the people of the society,” it stated.
Invigorating COVID is a virus that infects people. According to figures published on Monday by the Union Health Ministry, the number of coronavirus infections in India fell to 2,22,315, the lowest in over 38 days, bringing the overall number of coronavirus cases to 2,67,52,447 and the death toll to above 3 lakh.
According to figures updated at 8 a.m., the death toll had risen to 3,03,720, with 4,454 daily fatalities.