Families of COVID-19 victims must obtain financial compensation, the Supreme Court said Wednesday morning, giving the NDMA, or National Disaster Management Authority, six weeks to decide the amount and set the required guidelines.
Noting that it was not for its purview to decide the rules or the amount of compensation, the court criticized NDMA – the agency responsible for these details – for not having fulfilled its duty, and said it was required to grant “minimum standards of redress, which include ex gratia assistance”.
“We call on the NDMA to establish guidelines for ex gratia compensation for family members of those who have succumbed to Covid, in accordance with minimum standards of relief,” said a bench of two judges Ashok Bhushan, who retires on July 4, and Mr. R. Shah. in what will be a huge relief for the families of the victims.
“The reasonable amount to be provided is left to the wisdom of the authority,” added the judges.
Importantly, the court said that according to the Disaster Management Act, “minimum relief standards”, which include the payment of financial assistance, are mandatory and not discretionary.
The court also said death certificates for people who have died from COVID-19 must include the date and cause of death (CoD), and also have mechanisms to correct the CoD if the family is not satisfied.
The court orders responded to a plea seeking instructions to provide compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the families of those who had died from COVID-19 or post-Covid complications.
Earlier this month, the center told the court that such compensation could not be paid because it only applied to natural disasters. The center also said states cannot afford to pay Rs 4 lakh to each family.
The center pointed out that the virus has killed more than 3.85 lakh (that number is now almost four lakh) and that states are already under severe financial constraints due to the lockdown.
“The use of scarce resources for free giving can have unfortunate consequences of affecting the pandemic response and health spending in other aspects and therefore causing more damage than good,” the center said. .