The compensation issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005, will be applied retrospectively and be provided alongside the existing schemes of the state government, said a two-judge bench of the top Indian court.
“Next of kin of the deceased shall be paid an amount of Rs 50,000 and it will be over and above the amounts paid by centre and state under various benevolent schemes,” a bench of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
The court directed the government to disburse the amount through the state disaster relief fund within 30 days of the application and has also warned the government not to turn down compensation claims purely on the grounds that the death certificate did not mention Covid-19.
“If family member satisfies the authority of cause of death as Covid, then no State shall deny benefit of â¹50,000 on the ground that cause of death is not Covid in the death certificate,” the bench directed, according to the Live Law. The court also ordered the authorities to modify death certificates, if the family of the deceased produce a relevant PCR test. “If still aggrieved, they can approach the Grievance Redressal Committee,” added the bench.
These committees, which include medical and administrative experts, can examine medical records of the deceased patient and will also have the power to call for records from the hospitals, said the bench.
The court in its order, however, specified that “deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide” and accident will not be considered as Covid-19 deaths even as Covid-19 is an accompanying condition.
According to deeply conservative government data, nearly 447,000 people died from coronavirus in India. However, experts estimate it to be at least ten times more than that.
The orders were passed following a petition from two lawyers, advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, who sought payment of Rs 4 lakh (£3,895) each to the families of those who lost kin to Covid-19 but prime minister Narendra Modi’s central government submitted in court that the state’s Disaster Relief Funds will dry up if they pay this amount.
Speaking to the Independent, advocate Bansal said that, although the compensation amount was adequate, it should have been determined more on a needs-basis.
“I wish the union government had applied its mind because there are some class of citizens who do not need the compensation amount as much as the others. It is more desperately required by those families who have lost their sole earners and those living below the poverty line,” he added. “The union government could have taken that into account”.