NEW DELHI — The Union of India, on Aug. 16, has been granted four weeks more time by the Supreme Court of the nation to frame the guidelines on ex-gratia assistance and compensation to the families of people who died due to Covid-19.

Headed by Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, a division bench of the Apex Court comprising Justice M. R. Shah directed the Centre to submit any action report on the other guidelines as referred to in the earlier judgment authored by Justice Shah and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan (now retired), on June 30, 2021.

The Central Government had filed an application before the apex court seeking an extension of time to comply with the earlier judgment pronounced by Bhushan. The application was filled looking at the petitions filed by lawyers seeking ex-gratia compensation for those family members who died due to the pandemic.

“An extension of four weeks is being granted for framing of guidelines as directed in the judgment of June 30, 2021, with regard to other guidelines an action is taken report may be submitted except for 16(1),” said the bench.

The Apex Court said in its judgment that the National Disaster Management Authority is statutorily mandated to provide the minimum amount of relief, including an ex-gratia amount of compensation to the Covid-19 victims.

If it fails to provide an ex-gratia amount of compensation, then the National Disaster Management Authority has been unable to discharge its statutory duty, the Apex Court said in its judgment.

The Top Court had passed the judgment on June 30, 2021, after hearing the petitions filed by two lawyers, Gaurav Bansal and Reepak Kansal.

“These two writ petitions have been filed in Public Interest seeking directions to the respondents – Central/State Governments to provide ex gratia monetary compensation of Rs. 4 lacs ($5378.8) or notified ex gratia monetary compensation to the families of the deceased who have succumbed to the pandemic of Covid-19, in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as ‘DMA 2005’),” reads the petition.

The lawyer duo had moved the Apex Court seeking direction to the authorities concerned to provide ex gratia monetary compensation of INR 4 lakh ($5380) (notified in the financial aid) to the family members of the deceased, succumbed to Covid-19, as per the letter of the Ministry of Home Affairs in view of Section 12 of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The petitioners, in their pleas, had sought immediate appropriate directions to the concerned authorities to pay financial help as laid down by the Central government in its statute and rules to the family members of the deceased, who succumbed to Covid-19 pandemic.

The petitioners had said that “it is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family member/relative on any official document.”

“The medical officers have not been conducting a post-mortem of the persons who are dying due to Covid-19,” they said.

The petitioners have approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to the respondent States to issue death certificates/ any letter to the families of deceased stating therein cause of death.

The petitions said that keeping in view the spread of the Covid-19 virus in India and the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), by way of onetime special dispensation, it has been decided to treat it as notified disaster to assist the State Disaster Response Force.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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