Ex-gratia for Covid deaths: Supreme Court orders Centre to frame guidelines within 6 weeks

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to frame guidelines for payment of ex gratia compensation to family members of persons who succumbed to Covid-19, news agency ANI reported.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, in its judgement, also directed the NDMA to ascertain within 6 weeks ex-gratia amount that can be paid to the family members of those who died due to the infection.

The court’s order came in response to a plea seeking ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of all those who succumbed to the virus. The Centre had submitted by affidavit that state governments cannot afford to pay this, and had argued in favour of a broader approach including health interventions.

In its affidavit, the Centre submitted that ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh is beyond the affordability of state governments and argued that if Rs 4 lakh is paid to the kin of each, it “may possibly” consume the entire amount of the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF), leaving states with insufficient funds for organising a response to the pandemic, or to take care of other disasters.

The government pointed out that public health is a state subject under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution and that the combined 2021-22 funds for 12 notified disasters for SDRFs for all states is Rs 22,184 crore.

Till date, 3.98 people have succumbed to the infection, the Health Ministry data shows.

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