In the instant case the Hon’ble bench comprising Hon’ble justice Ashok Bhushan and Hon’ble MR Shah hearing to two writ petitions which have been filed in Public Interest seeking directions to the Central/State Governments to provide ex gratia monetary compensation of Rs. 4 lacs or notified ex gratia monetary compensation to the families of the deceased who have succumbed to the pandemic of Covid-19, given Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as ‘DMA 2005’) directed union government to take appropriate steps on recommendations of XVth Finance Commission Report.
Submissions on behalf of the petitioner in the instant case are as follows:
- learned Senior Advocate lS. B. Upadhyay, appearing on behalf of the petitioner in his submissions pointed to a letter dated 14.03.2020 in which the Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India has stated that “the Central Government, keeping in view the spread of Covid-19 virus in India, has decided to treat it as “Notified Disaster” to assist State Disaster Response Fund .”
- He further pointed out that ” earlier as per the communication dated 8.4.2015, the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs issued revised list and norms of assistance from SDRF and National Disaster Response Fund. It is submitted that as per the said letter, for any death which is caused due to disaster, an amount of Rs. 4 lacs is to be paid to the victim’s family, in addition to other reliefs.”
- Moreover, it is submitted that ” even the Finance Commission in its XVth Finance Commission’s Report at point number 8.132 & 8.133 has also suggested the Government of India launch National Insurance Scheme for Disaster-Related Deaths in India which will not only be able to work as Social Protection Scheme but will also not increase the administrative burden on the Government.”
- Lastly, It is further submitted by the learned Senior Advocate that Section 12 of the DMA 2005 mandatorily provides for the National Authority defined under Section 3 of the said Act to recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by the disaster and it shall include, inter alia, ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life
- Learned counsel further relied on decisions of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Swaraj Abhiyan versus. Union of India, (2016) 7 SCC, in which Hon’ble supreme court held that a plea of financial inability cannot be an excuse for disregarding statutory duties.
- Further, relying on Municipal Council, Ratlam versus. Vardichan, (1980) 4 SCC 162; and Khatri (2) versus. the State of Bihar, (1981) 1 SCC 627 in which it observed that State may have its financial constraint and its priorities in expenditure, the law does not permit any government to deprive its citizens of constitutional rights on a plea of poverty.
Directions of the hon’ble court are as follows:
- We direct the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, as mandated under Section 12(iii) of DMA, 2005 for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disaster – Covid 19 Pandemic. However, what reasonable amount to be offered towards ex gratia assistance is left to the wisdom of the National Authority.
- moreover, The Appropriate Authority is directed to issue simplified guidelines for issuance of Death Certificates/official documents stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19.
- lastly, The Union of India to take appropriate steps on the recommendations made by the Finance Commission in its XVth Finance Commission Report bearing in mind paragraph 8.131 in consultation with other stakeholders and experts.