"The issues are genuine and we will attend to it. Give me some time and we will sort it out. Let us file a Reply", said Solicitor General of India Mr.Tushar Mehta
A vacation bench Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah agreed to the request of the SG.
Accordingly, the matter has been listed for 21st June.
While one petition has been filed by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal who appeared as Petitioner-in-Person, the second plea was filed by Advocate Harisha SR on behalf of Advocate Reepak Kansal. Senior Advocate SB Upadhyay appeared for Kansal.
Senior Advocate SB Upadhyay submitted that the petitions also raised the issue of delay in issuance of death certificates. He said that it was more important, as the eligibility for compensation was dependent on issuance of death certificates showing COVID as the reason for death. The Solicitor General assured that this issue was also under active consideration.
At the previous hearing, the Court had directed the Central Government to bring on record any policy or guidelines pertaining to death certificates issued to COVID-19 patients, including guidelines by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Further directions were given to place before the Court all the schemes stipulated under Section 12(3) of the Disaster Management Act on the aspect of ex gratia compensation to families of those who had succumbed to COVID-19.
The Bench acknowledged the submission of the Petitioners that the guidelines for minimum standard of relief for ex gratia assistance required a death certificate. However, death certificates of COVID-19 victims did not mention the cause of death, thereby leading to difficulties for the families who had to run from pillar to post in order to receive the compensation.
Submitting that Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, states that the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life, the petitions pray for monetary compensation of Rs 4 lacs to the families of the deceased.
Kansal's plea, additionally, submits that it is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family member on any official document, and has therefore approached the Top Court seeking directions to States to issue death certificates/any letter to the families of the deceases stating the cause of death.
The aforementioned prayer gains relevance as, the plea submits, medical officers/hospitals are not conducting post mortem of persons who are dying due to COVID-19, and that the certificate would be necessary to get the assistance and monetary compensation.
The plea concludes on the note that not only is it the legal obligation of the State to provide adequate relief to the victims of COVID-19 and their family members under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) as it is a "notified disaster", but it is also the Constitutional obligation of the State to take care of the victims of the calamity and their families.