Decide within six weeks: Supreme Court to Centre
New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) this morning directed the Centre to frame guidelines to pay ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who lost their lives due to COVID-19.
A three-Judge Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan also directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to ascertain within 6 weeks an ex-gratia amount that can be paid to the family members of the deceased.
The Court was hearing petitions seeking directions to the Centre to provide ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each to families of people who lost their lives to COVID-19.
The Bench directed that guidelines be framed to fix compensation as per minimum standards of relief.
“Ex-gratia compensation will have financial implications on relief to be provided to the ones who are affected by the disaster. Centre’s policy is based on a number of factors and thus it is not proper for this Court to direct a particular amount of compensation. No country has unlimited resources. Dispensation of the same is based on a number of circumstances, facts, law,” the SC said.
In an affidavit filed in the Court earlier, the Centre had said that the compensation could not be paid as it would exhaust the disaster relief funds and the disaster management law mandates that relief applies only to natural disasters.
“If an ex-gratia of Rs. 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life, the entire amount of the Disaster Relief Fund may possibly be spent on this item alone and indeed the total expenditure may go up further,” the Centre had said. It added that denying compensation for diseases other than COVID would be unfair. The Centre also said due to increased health expenses and low tax revenue, it is beyond States’ budget to pay compensation for lakhs of COVID victims.
The Centre reminded the Apex Court of its earlier judgment to keep away from executive policies and said the judiciary cannot decide on behalf of the Centre.