No state govt will deny Rs 50,000 ex-gratia to Covid victims over technicalities: Supreme Court

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Beneficiaries wait in a queue to receive Covid-19 vaccine dose, at a vaccination centre in Mumbai. (Representational image)

The Supreme Court on Monday told the district disaster management authorities (DDMA) and the grievance redressal committees to avoid any technicalities and act as a helping hand, as it ruled that no state government would deny Rs 50,000 ex-gratia assistance to the kin of Covid victims, solely on the ground that the death certificate did not mention the viral disease as cause of death.

A bench of justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna said, “All endeavours shall be made by the district disaster management authority/district administration and even the grievance redressal committee to avoid any technicalities and all concerned authorities shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered because of the loss of a family member due to Covid-19.”

The top court also approved the Centre’s proposal of paying Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of those who succumbed to the viral disease.

The bench said, “No state shall deny the ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased solely on the ground that in the death certificate issued by the appropriate authority, the cause of death is not mentioned as died due to Covid-19.”

The bench said the ex-gratia will be over and above the compensation/amount to be paid by the Centre/states/Union Territories to be declared/provided under different benevolent schemes.

The bench added that the authorities at the district level should take remedial measures including issuance of amended official document for Covid death after verifying the facts on production of the necessary documents showing that the death is due to Covid.

Giving a slew of directions, the bench said the ex-gratia compensation should be disbursed within 30 days from the date of submitting the application to the concerned DDMA along with the proof of the death of a person due to Covid.

The bench noted that if the death certificate does not cite Covid as cause of death, the aggrieved parties may approach the concerned officials of the district committee consisting of additional district collector, chief medical officer of health (CMOH), additional CMOH/Principal or HOD medicine of a medical college (if one existing in the district) and a subject expert, who shall take remedial measures.

In accordance with the guidelines dated September 11, issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) under Section 12(iii) of DMA, 2005, the bench said: “A family member of the deceased who committed suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as Covid positive shall also be entitled to avail the financial help/ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 as granted under the SDRF (state disaster relief fund).”

To help victims’ families, the top court said the details of the authority to decide the applications for ex-gratia payment should be published in print and electronic media within one week.

The apex court passed its orders on the guidelines prepared by the NDMA, following its June 30 judgment, which came on PILs filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal seeking Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia amount to Covid victims’ families.

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