Can't pay Rs 4 lakh ex gratia to COVID-19 victims' kin due to financial constraints: Centre to SC
The SC on May 24 had issued a notice to the Centre, on hearing petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities to provide ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh to kin of Covid victims.
NEW DELHI: The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that Rs 4 lakh cannot be given to all Covid-19 victims as compensation because it would exhaust the disaster relief funds. It said that compensation only applies to natural disasters.
“If ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to Covid-19, the entire amount of State Disaster Response Fund (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.
The Centre’s response came following a petition seeking minimum standards of relief and ex-gratia for lives lost in the pandemic. According to figures released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 3,86,713 persons had died in the country of Covid-19, until 8 am on Sunday.The Centre also cited that due to increased health expenses and low tax revenue, it is beyond the budget of the states to pay compensation for each and every Covid victim. “If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for Covid-19 victims, then the states may not have sufficient funds for organising 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 added in its response. The Centre also reminded the apex court of its previous judgment to keep away from executive policies and that the judiciary cannot decide on behalf of the government. The matter will come up for hearing 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 said.
The affidavit also said that all Covid deaths, regardless of where it takes place, should be recorded as Covid-19 deaths. It said that till now, only deaths of Covid-19 patients that took place in hospitals were certified as Covid deaths and those that happened at home or even at hospital parking lots were not, leading to a discrepancy in toll numbers. A total of 1576 fresh fatalities were reported from across the country in the last 24 hours, according the I&B ministry release.