The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that issues raised in the pleas, seeking directions for ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4,00,000 to the families of those who have died of Covid-19, are genuine and are under consideration of the government. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, requested a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah to give him some time so that he can file a reply on the pleas.
The issues are genuine and are being attended to. If the court will grant me some time, I will file a reply, Mehta told the bench. The apex court observed that as per media reports, the Bihar government has already announced that it would give Rs 4,00,000 ex-gratia to families of those who have died due to Covid-19. When the counsel appearing for one of the petitioners said that authorities are not issuing death certificates to those succumbing to the deadly virus, Mehta said, Let me put in my reply. I have already said that issues raised are genuine.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the counsel also referred to the issue of black fungus. We are granting you time. We can have it on next Friday, the bench told Mehta, who requested the bench to grant two-week time.
Why two weeks?, the bench asked, adding that earlier it had given 10 days to the Centre to file affidavit in the matter. Mehta said, The entire machinery is diverted. Please have it after two weeks. Tushar Mehta, the solicitor general submits that the issues are under consideration of the Union of India and he shall file a reply and thereafter the matter may be heard. As prayed, time is allowed to file a reply. List these petitions on June 21, 2021. The reply be served on the counsel for the petitioners by June 18, the bench said in its order.
On May 24, the top court had sought the Centre’s reply on two petitions seeking ex-gratia compensation of Rs four lakh to the families of those who have died of Covid-19 and had said that there should be a uniform policy for issuing death certificates to those succumbing to the virus. The court had also asked the Centre to place before it the ICMR guidelines on death certificates for Covid-19 victims, saying there should be uniform policy for issuing such documents. The counsel appearing for the Centre had on May 24 sought time to obtain instructions and bring all relevant materials regarding the scheme under Section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as the letter dated April 8, 2015 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs with regard to compensation.
The apex court is hearing two separate pleas seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs four lakh compensation to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the Act, and a uniform policy for issuing death certificates. Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, one of the petitioners in the matter, had argued that under section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, every family whose member died due to disaster is entitled for ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4,00,000. He had argued that since COVID-19 has been declared as a disaster and as per the order dated April 8, 2015, every family whose member dies due to disaster is entitled for ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh.
The counsel, appearing for another petitioner Reepak Kansal, had argued that large number of deaths were taking place due to Covid-19 and death certificates need to be issued, as only after that the affected family members can claim compensation under section 12 (iii) of the Act. In his plea, Kansal has said that states should be directed to fulfil their obligation to take care of victims of Covid-19 and also their family members.