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SC Direction: Centre Has Six Weeks To Decide Ex-Gratia Compensation For Kin Of COVID-19 Victims

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to frame guidelines to pay ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who died due to COVID-19. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan also directed the National Disaster Management Authority to ascertain within 6 weeks the 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.

What the Centre told SC earlier

Disaster relief funds

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, News19 reported.

“If ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to Covid-19, the entire amount of SDRF may possibly be spent on this item alone, and indeed the total expenditure may go up further,” the Centre said in a 183-page affidavit. It also added that denying compensation for diseases other than Covid would be “unfair”.

What will states do if SDRF funds get exhausted?

“If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for Covid-19 victims, the States may not have sufficient funds for organizing Covid-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc. Hence, the prayer of the petitioner for payment of ex-gratia to all deceased persons due to Covid-19, is beyond the fiscal affordability of the State governments,” the Centre added.

The Centre also 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. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday.

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