SC Approves Guidelines on Ex-Gratia Payment to Families of COVID Victims

The guidelines direct states to disburse the compensation amount to victims' families within 30 days of their filing the requisite application, in addition to calling for the constitution of grievance redressal committees, classifying "COVID deaths" and more.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, October 4, approved the guidelines framed by the National Disaster Management Authority and the Union government on the disbursal of ex-gratia compensation to the families of COVID-19 victims, issuing a number of guidelines to be followed in this regard, Live Law reported.

On July 30, the court had noted that families of COVID-19 victims are entitled to compensation and had asked the NDMA to issue guidelines regarding the same. The recommendation of an ex-gratia payment of Rs 50,000 had been communicated to the court by the Union government in September.

Also read: NDMA For Rs 50,000 as Compensation to Families of COVID-19 Victims: Centre to SC

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna issued various directions regarding these payments, stating that the next of kin of the deceased should be paid Rs 50,000 under Section 12 (3) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which is to be over and above any other amount disbursed by the Union or state governments as part of any other benevolent scheme.

This amount will come from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) of the state in question and will be disbursed by the District Disaster Management Authority(DDMA) or the district administration.

After submitting an application to the concerned DDMA, along with the requisite documents proving the victim died due to COVID-19, the court has ordered that the compensation will be disbursed within 30 days, the Indian Express reported.

The court also clarified that no state can deny this payment to the deceased’s next of kin on the grounds that their death certificate does not mention “died of COVID-19” as the cause of death. The death will be regarded as a “COVID death” if the victim had been diagnosed as having COVID-19 within 30 days of their death, either through a positive RT-PCR, RAT or molecular test or if the same had been “clinically determined” by a physician.

The kin of those who died by suicide within 30 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis will also be eligible for the ex-gratia payment, in accordance with what the Union government had decided on September 23.

The court also directed states to form district level grievance redressal committees which will consist of the additional district collector, the chief medical officer of health (CMOH), an additional CMOH or a head of department of medicine of a medical college (provided there is such a college in the district) and a subject expert. 

States have been directed to constitute these committees within one week and publish the address and particulars of this committee in electronic and print media.

Family members of the deceased can move this committee for any grievance related to the non-receipt of the ex-gratia payment or claims regarding the certification of death. The committee is required to look into the victim’s medical record and make a decision on the matter within 30 days. Should the decision be not in favour of the claimant, the committee is required to provide a clear reason for the same.

Hospitals will be required to furnish any records on the patient that they have before the committee. Moreover, if a family is aggrieved by a death certificate which has already been issued, the committee can direct the issuing authority to amend the certificate.

The court concluded by directing the NDMA, the Union government and the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) to issue guidelines based on the court’s directions to the concerned states and union territories.