On Monday, The Supreme Court asked the Center for reconsidering its decision to not include suicide as Covid-19 death even though COVID-19 is an accompanying condition.
A bench consisting of Judges MR Shah and AS Bopanna was reviewing new guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to simplify the process of issuing death certificates, as mandated by the directions in the June 30th judgment.
According to the aforementioned guidelines, deaths due to poisoning, suicide, homicide and accidental death will, among other things, not be considered a death of COVID-19 even if COVID-19 is a related condition.
These guidelines were placed before the Supreme Court through a compliance affidavit which was filed on September 11.
“We have checked your counter and it seems alright. But there are 2 to 3 things that we want to point out,” Justice Shah said to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
“What about the people who committed suicide while they were suffering from Corona?” Justice Shah asked. The judge said that exclusion of such suicides where COVID was an accompanying condition would not be accepted. “You have to reconsider this,” Justice Shah told SG.
The Bench also asked the Center to look into the certificates already issued and the remedies available to family members in the event of a dispute over the cause of death.
The SC also asked the Union to inform the Court of the compliance with respect to the guidelines that are to be issued by the National Disaster Management Authority for determining compensation.
Tushar Mehta- Solicitor General assured that the compensation guidelines will be in effect before the next hearing date which is 23rd September, 2021.
The bench was hearing a contempt petition seeking compliance for a judgment passed on June 30th which had directions to frame guidelines for granting compensation to the people who died due to COVID and further issuance of death certificates to them (Gaurav Bansal v. Union of India).
“We have checked the compliance report submitted by the Union of India. Upon reading the same, it appears that there are some issues that need to be considered and reconsidered and there are some creases that are required to be ironed out. For a complete implementation of the directions issued by the court, the issues that are supposed to be reconsidered have already been told to the SG. Mr. Mehta- the Solicitor General, submitted that so far the other directions, specifically the guidelines that will be issued to determine the compensation u/s 12 of the DM Act as laid down Para 16(1) will also be complied with in the next date of the hearing “, the bench stated.
The Supreme Court on September 3 ordered the Union Government to show compliance by 11th September to the adjudication process passed on June 30 to set guidelines to simplify the process of issuing death certificates with respect to the COVID-19 deaths.
Following the court’s order, the Central Government told the Supreme Court in a compliance affidavit that it had framed guidelines to simplify the process of issuing COVID-19 death certificates in accordance with the terms of the June 30 judgment.
The affidavit also stated that the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had jointly issued guidelines on September 3 for the release of an “official document” on the deaths due to COVID-19.
It was also included in the affidavit that the Office of the Registrar General of India (“ORGI”) issued a circular on September 3, 2021, to provide a Medical Certificate of Cause of the Death to the relatives of the deceased.