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New Delhi: Family members of people who have died by suicide within 30 days of having been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be entitled to Rs 50,000 ex-gratia assistance as per guidelines, the Union government told the Supreme Court.
Deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a COVID-19 case will be treated as deaths due to COVID-19, even if the death takes place outside the hospital or in-patient facility, the government clarified on Thursday, September 23.
A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna was hearing pleas filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, and some intervenors represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi, who have lost their family members to COVID-19.
The Union government had earlier told the Supreme Court that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued its guidelines on September 11, recommending that Rs 50,000 be given to the family of those who died of COVID-19.
The ex-gratia assistance will be provided by states from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and all claims will be settled within 30 days of submission of required documents, and disbursed through Aadhaar linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures, it had added.
However, Indian Express has reported that the NDMA guidelines had said that deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide, accidents, etc. will not be treated as COVID-19 deaths even if the virus infection is an accompanying condition.
On September 13, the Supreme Court had asked the government to reconsider its decision not to treat suicide of a COVID-19-positive person as a COVID-19 death.
In response, the government has filed its latest affidavit noting,
“It is respectfully submitted that suitable directions in this regard may be passed by this Court, whereby, the family members of people committing suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as COVID-19 positive as per MoH&F/ICMR guidelines will also be entitled to avail financial help as granted under SDRF in accordance with the Guidelines dated September 11, 2021 issued by NDMA under Section 12 (iii) of Disaster Management Act.”
Thus, COVID-19 cases which are not resolved and those who died either in hospitals or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 and 4 A has been issued to the registering authority, as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969, will be treated as a COVID-19 death.
The affidavit was taken on record by the bench, which said it will necessary orders on October 4, in the matter keeping all aspects in mind.
The apex court has also expressed happiness at the development, reported Indian Express.
“Today we are very happy. There will be some solace to the persons who have suffered. Everything the government is performing…We’re happy that something is being done to wipe out the tears of those who suffered…We have to take judicial notice of the fact that what India has done, no other country could do,” said Justice M.R. Shah.
The government has also said that the guidelines will offer opportunity for review and rectification of any certificate of death issued by hospitals or government authority prior to the guidelines coming into force on September 3, 2021.
It added that the next of kin of the deceased can raise a grievance before the concerned District Level Committee, as envisaged in guidelines issued on September 3, that the cause of death of his/her kin was COVID related as per the parameters prescribed, however, the death certificate issued do not recognises it as death due to COVID-19′ and mentions some other incidental cause in the death certificate.
The affidavit said that when such application is being made to the district committee it would examine the contemporaneous medical records of the deceased patient and if it panel comes to the conclusion that the case of the applicant indeed falls within the parameters then it would issue a fresh or corrected certificate for the deceased, certifying his death to be COVID related death, eligible for financial or other assistance as provided by the Central government or SDRF.
Further, the district level committee proposed in the guidelines shall also consider any dispute between the hospital and the family regarding the cause of death, it said.
The government said that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has further clarified that death certificate indicating COVID-19 deaths either already issued prior to coming into force of September 3 guidelines or as rectified by the District level committee shall be treated as the valid document for considering any death as death due to COVID-19′.
It said that the timeline for setting up of the district level Committee by the States will be prescribed as 30 days for which suitable instruction will be issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
(With PTI inputs)
If you know someone – friend or family member – at risk of suicide, please reach out to them. The Suicide Prevention India Foundation maintains a list of telephone numbers they can call to speak in confidence. Icall, a counselling service run by TISS, has maintained a crowdsourced list of therapists across the country. You could also take them to the nearest hospital.