SC directs Centre to frame guidelines for compensation to families of COVID victims
Supreme Court also directed the National Disaster Management Authority to ascertain within 6 weeks an ex-gratia amount that can be paid to the family members of those who died due to Covid.
The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the government to frame guidelines to pay ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who died due to Covid-19.
In its order, the court ordered the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to form guidelines for payment as it dismissed the Centre's plea that "no such ex gratia can be paid". The guidelines, it said, have to be put in place within six months.
"We direct NDMA to form guidelines for ex gratia compensation for family members of persons who succumbed to covid as per minimum standards of relief. The reasonable amount to be provided is left to wisdom of national authority," the apex court said.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah delivered the judgment in the cases Gaurav Kumar Bansal vs Union of India and Reepak Kansal vs Union of India and others.
The Court held that Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act cast a statutory obligation on the part of the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend minimum relief for the victims of a national disaster. Such minimum relief will also include 'ex-gratia assistance' as per Section 12(iii), the Court held.
The Court rejected the argument of the Union Government that Section 12 was not a mandatory provision. The Court noted that Section 12 uses the word 'shall' and hence concluded that the provision was mandatory. The Union had argued for reading 'shall' in Section 12 as 'may'.
However, the Court said that it cannot direct the Union Government to pay a particular amount as compensation. The Court has directed the National Authority to frame guidelines within 6 weeks on providing ex-gratia assistance to Covid victims.
The court said that NDMA is statutorily mandated to provide minimum standards of relief, including ex-gratia to Covid victims.
"By not providing ex-gratia amount, the NDMA has failed in discharging its statutory duty," the order said.
India has recorded nearly 3.9 lakh deaths due to Covid pandemic, which has been declared a disaster under DM Act.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that the ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh cannot be paid to the families of those who have died of Covid-19 as the finances of state governments and the Centre are under severe strain.
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