'State Govts Can't Afford Rs 4-Lakh Ex-Gratia to COVID-19 Victims' Kin': Centre Tells SC

The Centre also said in its affidavit that all COVID-19 deaths, including those outside of hospitals, should be recorded as such.

New Delhi: The Centre has said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that all coronavirus deaths, irrespective of whether they have taken place at residences, hospital parking lots or hospitals, should be recorded as such, according to a report by NDTV. In the same affidavit, the Centre also said that it cannot give a Rs 4-lakh compensation to victims of COVID-19.

The 183-page affidavit was reportedly filed late on June 19.

The affidavit was submitted in the course of the Supreme Court hearing a plea, by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, for compensation to the families of those who have passed away of COVID-19, or post COVID-19 complications, including mucormycosis, reported Indian Express.

The petition had referred to Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2005, which said that national authority shall recommend guidelines on relief and ex-gratia assistance.

However, citing the number of deaths – nearly 4 lakh – the Centre ruled out the possibility of this Rs 4-lakh compensation amount as it would put pressure on state coffers.

“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, according to India Today.

“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,” said the Centre.

The plea, according to NDTV, said that death certificates of victims often do not mention COVID-19 as the cause of death, thus making it difficult for families to get compensation.

In the recent past, several states have revised their official death tolls amidst news reports that deaths were being vastly undercounted.

Until now, non-hospital deaths had been kept out of the fatality figures.

The Supreme Court had asked the Centre to respond to its question as to whether there was a uniform policy or set of guidelines on death certificates at this time that would help families of victims who have to “rush from pillar to post”.

The Centre said in its affidavit that doctors who do not mention “COVID death” in relevant death certificates will be penalised.

Bihar on June 10 revised its COVID-19 death toll, putting the total number of fatalities caused by the pandemic at 9,429 – up from under 5,500. According to the state health department, as many as 3,951 deaths have been added to the toll after verification. It did not specify when these additional deaths took place, though a breakup was provided for all 38 districts.