HE Supreme Court Wednesday held that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) failed to perform its duty by not recommending minimum standards of relief to be provided to the families of those who had died of Covid19. The NDMA is headed by the Prime Minister.
A two-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah directed the NDMA to frame guidelines for ex-gratia compensation for COVID deaths within six weeks. It left the amount to the discretion of the national authority.
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) June 30, 2021
The bench refused to accede to the request of the petitioner to provide Rs.4 lakh as ex-gratia compensation to the families of Covid19 victims, saying it was beyond judicial review.
“Many have lost the sole bread earner. However, at the same time…. the impact and effect of the present pandemic/disaster would be different from the other disasters/natural disasters for which ex gratia assistance is provided. There shall not be any justification to provide for the same/similar amount by way of ex gratia assistance as provided in the case of other disasters/natural disaster, i.e., Rs. 4 lacs”, the Court held.
The Court also directed that the concerned authority will issue simplified guidelines for issuance of Death Certificates/official documents stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19.
The order came to be passed on a petition seeking compensation of Rs 4 lakh under the Disaster Management Act to the families of those who had died due to Covid19.
As per Section 12 of the DM Act, the National Authority is required to recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which includes:
- the minimum requirements to be provided in the relief camps in relation to shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation;
- the special provisions to be made for widows and orphans;
- ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood;
- such other relief as may be necessary.
Central Government had, in its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, said state governments would not be able to afford to provide ex-gratia payment of Rs.4 lakhs to the families of every person who has died of Covid19.
The finances of state governments and the Central Government are under severe strain already due to the reduction in tax revenues and increase in health expenses on account of the pandemic, the Centre had said.