SC asks Centre to collect data on disbursal of ex-gratia to kin of COVID victims, pulls up Guj govt

By: |
November 22, 2021 8:51 PM

The bench said it wants to know who has issued the first notification and accountability has to be fixed.

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to gather information from the States on the progress made on disbursal of ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000 to the kin of COVID-19 victims and pulled up the Gujarat government for issuing notification constituting a scrutiny committee contrary to its directions.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna which sought to know from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, as to how many people have got the payment, said he should collect the data from all the States, and a grievance redressal committee should be set up before the next date of hearing on November 29.

The bench was hearing an application seeking quashing of the October 29 resolution issued by the health and family welfare department of the Gujarat government forming a ‘COVID-19 death ascertaining committee’. At the outset, Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, said that an amended resolution has been issued under the court’s direction of November 18 but it also needs some modification.

The bench said it wants to know who has issued the first notification and accountability has to be fixed. Mehta said he is ready to take responsibility.

Justice Shah said why the Solicitor General should take the responsibility. The concerned officer, who has drafted the notification, must take the responsibility, the judge said. Mehta said senior IAS officer Manoj Aggarwal of the State is connected to the virtual hearing and he will assist the court.

The bench asked Aggarwal as to who had drafted the notification and whose brainchild was the document.
Aggarwal, who is the Additional Chief Secretary, said the file goes through different departments and finally the competent authority gives the approval.

The bench then asked in this case which is the competent authority. Aggarwal replied it is the Chief Minister.
“Your chief minister may not know many things? Mr. Secretary, you are there for what? If this is your application of mind, then you don’t know anything. Do you understand our order? It appears to be a bureaucratic attempt to delay the proceedings,” the bench observed.

Mehta said that there are genuine concerns about fake claims being made and that’s why a scrutiny committee was constituted to ascertain the claims.

The bench said, “This court has never asked for the setting up of a scrutiny committee. It will take more than a year for genuine victims to get their claims and get a certificate from the scrutiny committee. Kin of victims are required to come with a certificate from hospitals but which hospital has been giving the certificate for COVID deaths”.
The bench said that at least 10,000 people have died according to the data of the State and just because false claims are being made, does not mean the genuine persons will have to suffer.
Justice Nagarathna said that the death certificates are issued by the government department itself than how they can be forged.

Mehta said that the notification was drafted in an idiotic manner and assured the bench that a modified one will be passed soon.

The bench said at least 10,000 persons should get the ex-gratia and warned that it would appoint legal service authority members as Ombudsman like it was during the Gujarat earthquake for disbursal of compensation.
It asked Mehta to ensure that by that time disbursal of ex-gratia should continue to those whose records are found genuine and are with the government.

On November 18, the top court had pulled up the Gujarat government for issuing a notification which is “just contrary” to the directions given regarding ex-gratia to the next of kin of those who died due to COVID-19 and said an attempt has been made to “overreach” the directions issued by the apex court.

The top court had on October 4 said that no state shall deny the ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased due to COVID-19 solely on the ground that the death certificate does not mention the virus as the cause of death.

The court had also said that the ex-gratia is to be disbursed within 30 days from the date of applying to the concerned district disaster management authority or the district administration along with the proof of the death of the deceased due to coronavirus and the cause of death being certified as “died due to COVID-19″.

The top court had said that its directions for payment of compensation to the family members of the persons, who died due to COVID-19, are very clear and there was “no requirement at all” of constituting the scrutiny committee to award compensation.

The bench had said it was very much made clear that even in a case, wherein the death certificate the cause is not shown as death due to COVID-19 but if found that deceased was declared positive for coronavirus and has died within 30 days, automatically his or her family members are entitled to the compensation without any further conditions.

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