Prepare guidelines for compensation to COVID-19 victims in 6 weeks: SC directs centre

Earlier, the Centre expressed its objections to the idea of Rs 4 lakh compensation on account of the weak finances of the central and the state governments following increased health expenditure and reduction in tax collections.

Rejecting the objections of the central government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday granted the centre a time of 6 weeks for framing guidelines to provide minimum relief to family members of those who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The direction was issued by the court while hearing a case pertaining to compensation for COVID-19 victims. The petitioner has demanded a sum of Rs 4 lakh to be paid to each victim from National Disaster Response Fund(NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Fund(SDRF).

Overruling the government’s objection that providing relief was not mandatory, the top court observed that section 12 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 includes an ex-gratia. The court criticized the National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA) for failing to perform its function by not recommending the relief. “There is nothing on record that National Authority has issued any guidelines,” the SC added.

Earlier, the Centre expressed its objections to the idea of Rs 4 lakh compensation on account of the weak finances of the central and the state governments following increased health expenditure and reduction in tax collections. The home ministry argued that measures like an increase in health infrastructure and ensuring food security had been taken as a part of the “minimum standard relief” provision under section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

According to the government, providing the compensation would do more harm than good as it would affect its overall pandemic response including the spending on health. Further, it appealed to the Supreme Court to not interfere in policy-related decisions. The top court did note that it couldn’t order the government to pay a specific amount as compensation.

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