NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday said no state shall deny the ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased due to COVID-19 solely on the ground that the death certificate does not mention the virus as the cause of death.
The ex-gratia compensation is to be disbursed within 30 days from the date of submitting the application to the concerned District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration along with the proof of the death of the deceased due to COVID-19 and the cause of death being certified as Died due to Covid-19", the apex court said.
The amount shall be provided by the concerned states from the State Disaster Response Fund and is to be disbursed by the District Disaster Management Authority/District administration.
"No States shall deny the ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 to the next of the kin of the deceased died due to COVID-19 solely on the ground that in the death certificate issued by the appropriate authority, the cause of death is not mentioned as 'Died due to COVID-19'," the apex court said.
The top court also said that if a family member of the deceased who committed suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as COVID-19 positive shall also be entitled to avail the financial help/ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 as granted under the SDRF in accordance with the guidelines issued by the NDMA.
The SC said the assistance of shall be treated as ex-gratia payment under Section 12(iii) of the DMA, 2005 and which shall be minimum and which shall be over and above the compensation/amount to be paid by the Union of India/State Governments/Union Territories to be declared/provided under different benevolent schemes.
It also ordered that the full particulars and address of the DDMA/ District Administration who is required to disburse the ex-gratia assistance is to be published in the Print Media and Electronic Media and given wide publicity.
The information is to be published within a week from Monday besides publication in the prominent offices of the village/taluk/district, such as Gram Panchayat Office, Taluk Panchayat Office, District Collector Office, Corporation Office, etc.
Approving the NDMA guidelines, a bench of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna said that in cases of death certificates already issued and a family member being aggrieved it would be open for them to approach appropriate authority.
On production of essential documents like RTPCR test, the concerned authorities can modify death certificates, the apex court said, adding that if still aggrieved, the members can approach the Grievance Redressal Committee.
The bench said that in case of any grievance, the aggrieved person may approach the Committee at District level consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Additional CMOH/Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College and a subject expert, who shall take remedial measures including the issuance of amended official document for COVID-19 death after verifying the facts on the production of necessary documents showing that the death is due to COVID-19.
"All the states shall constitute such Committee within a period of one week from today and the address location and full particulars of the said Committee at the District level shall be published in Print Media and Electronic Media having wide circulation. So far as the Corporation area is concerned, a similar Committee be constituted consisting the Deputy Commissioner, Medical/Health, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Civil Hospital in the area, if any, Additional CMOH/Principal/HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one existing in the district) and a subject expert and their office shall be at the office of the Municipal Corporation of the concerned municipality," the bench said.
The apex court said that in case the decision of the Committee is not in favour of the claimant, a clear reason for the same shall be recorded by the Committee which is called a Grievance Redressal Committee.
It also said that as per the NDMA Guidelines, the ex-gratia assistance to the families affected by COVID-19 deaths shall continue to be provided for deaths that may occur in future phases of COVID-19 as well.
The top court also ordered that the Grievance Redressal Committee can examine medical records of deceased patients and take a call within 30 days and order the compensation.
"All endeavours shall be made by the District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration and even the Grievance Redressal Committee to avoid any technicalities and all concerned authority shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered due to loss of a family member died due to COVID-19," the bench said.
It had said that ex-gratia assistance will also be given to the kin of those who died of the virus due to involvement in COVID-19 relief operations or activities associated with the preparedness for dealing with the pandemic.
"COVID-19 cases, for the purpose of considering the deaths of the deceased due to COVID-19, are those which are diagnosed through a positive RT-PCR/Molecular Tests/RAT or clinically determined through investigations in a hospital/in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted in the hospital/in-patient facility; "That the deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a COVID-19 case shall be treated as Deaths due to COVID-19, even if the death takes place outside the hospital/in-patient facility," the bench said.
The government had said that NDMA had issued the guidelines on September 11 in compliance with the directions of the apex court given on June 30 wherein it had directed the authority to recommend guidelines for ex-gratia assistance.
In its affidavit filed on a batch of pleas by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and intervenors represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi seeking ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims, the Centre had said the NDMA has already started discussions/consultations on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission regarding insurance intervention.