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Can’t give Rs 4 lakh indemnity to Covid victims, will exhaust funds: Centre tells SC

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Can’t give Rs 4 lakh indemnity to Covid victims, will exhaust funds: Centre tells SC

New Delhi: The central government has told the Supreme court that Rs 4 lakh compensation cannot be paid to all those who died of Coronavirus as it would exhaust the disaster relief funds and also that the indemnity couldn’t be provided as the disaster management law mandates legal redress only to natural disasters.

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The statement of the centre came in response to a plea seeking “minimum standards of relief” and ex-gratia payment to Covid-19 deceased, a media report said.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, 3.86 lakh people have died of the coronavirus pandemic since it began last year and the fatalities are likely to increase.

“If ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to Covid-19, the entire amount of SDRF may possibly be spent on this item alone, and indeed the total expenditure may go up further,” the Centre said in a 183-page affidavit filed late last night. It also added that denying compensation for diseases other than Covid would be “unfair”.

The centre also said due to increased health expenses and low tax revenue it is beyond states’ budget to pay compensation for lakhs of Covid victims.

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“If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for Covid-19 victims, the States may not have sufficient funds for organizing Covid-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc. Hence, the prayer of the petitioner for payment of ex-gratia to all deceased persons due to Covid-19, is beyond the fiscal affordability of the State governments,” the Centre reportedly added.

The report said the centre also reminded the apex court of its earlier judgment to keep away from executive policies and said the judiciary cannot decide on behalf of the centre. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday.

“It is well settled through numerous judgements of the Supreme Court that this is a matter which should be performed by the authority, to whom it has been entrusted and not one where the court will substitute its own judgement for the decision to be taken by the executive,” the government reportedly said.

The petition was filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepal Kansal had refrred to Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, according to which, the national authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include ex-gratia assistance, a report in Bar and Bench said.

The Centre in the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court also said that all Coronavirus deaths, regardless of where it takes place, should be recorded as Covid-19 deaths. The Centre also promised action against those doctors who fail to comply with this rule.

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The report said that till now, only deaths of Covid-19 patients that took place in the hospitals were certified as Covid deaths. While those that happened at home or even at hospital parking lots, leading to a discrepancy in toll numbers.

The decision to certify all Covid deaths comes at a time when many states have seen massive unaccounted death figures, raising questions on whether states were undercounting Covid deaths.

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