NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday expressed displeasure over delay in framing guidelines for issuance of death certificates to the families of those who died of COVID-19 and directed the Centre to file compliance report by September 11.
“We passed the order a long time back. We have already extended the time once. By the time you frame the guidelines, the third phase will also be over”, a bench comprising Justices M R Shah and Aniruddha Bose observed.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, assured the court that everything is under consideration.
Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who has filed the petition, submitted that under the pretext of consideration things should not be delayed as the top court has already granted four-week extension to the Centre on August 16 to frame guidelines for ex-gratia compensation and now it is seeking more time.
Advocate Sumeer Sodhi, who appeared for some of the applicants, said extended time for the first direction passed on June 30 is getting over on September 8.
The bench said it is for the Centre to take decision on compensation within that period of time and today it was adjourning the matter only for the purpose of compliance with other directions.
“Put up on September 13 as Solicitor General seeks time to enable Union Of India to comply with earlier order and place on record compliance report of other directions issued by this court on June 30, 2021. Compliance report to be filed with the registry on or before September 11,” the bench said.
The apex court had in its June 30 verdict directed the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend within six weeks appropriate guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons who died due to COVID-19.
The Centre had moved an application seeking some more time to frame the guidelines on the ground that the exercise which was in active consideration of the NDMA was at an advanced stage and requires a little more in-depth examination.
In its June 30 verdict, the top court had also ordered steps to simplify guidelines for issuance and correction of death certificates/official documents, stating the exact cause of death, that is, ‘Death due to COVID-19’ for enabling dependents to get benefits of welfare schemes.
The top court’s verdict had come on two separate pleas filed by lawyers Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the Act.
Four intervenors, who had lost their family members due to COVID have also moved the top court contending that there cannot be any discrimination in the amounts being paid by different states to family members of those, who had succumbed to the deadly infection.
The apex court in its verdict, however, had noted the peculiarity and the impact and effect of the pandemic and said that it cannot order payment of Rs four lakh as ex-gratia compensation which should be decided by the NDMA as there was a need to focus simultaneously on prevention, preparedness, mitigation and recovery, which calls for a different order of mobilization of both financial and technical resources.
“We direct the NDMA to recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, as mandated under Section 12(iii) of Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2005 for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disaster – Covid 19 Pandemic, over and above the guidelines already recommended for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by Covid-19, it had said.
It had also directed the Centre to take appropriate steps on recommendations of the Finance Commission on providing insurance cover for deaths caused by Covid.
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