Updated: November 29, 2021 8:38:32 pm
The Supreme Court on Monday expressed concern over the low number of claims being filed for compensation for Covid-19 deaths and said this could be due to lack of enough publicity about the scheme or lack of knowledge about where to apply.
A bench headed by Justice MR Shah asked the states and the Union territories to furnish details on the number of deaths recorded and claims received and processed, what publicity has been given to the compensation scheme, and whether they have set up portals for receiving claims and disbursing compensation, among others.
The court directed that these details be supplied to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India/National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on or before December 3 after considering which it will pass orders laying down a uniform procedure across the country.
The bench, also comprising Justice B V Nagarathna, said that the model developed by Gujarat can be applied across India.
On the previous date of hearing, the bench had conveyed displeasure over the Gujarat government notification putting in place a committee to scrutinise the process of receipt of claims.
On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the bench that the procedure had been revised and simplified. The bench expressed satisfaction with the revised scheme. It said the fresh resolution dated November 28 “can be said to be absolutely” as per the court’s earlier directions. “The procedure to claim compensation is simplified and absolutely in consonance with our judgment and order dated 04.10.2021,” the bench said.
It wondered if the clause requiring applications to be made to the district collector or ‘mamlatdar’ of the taluka or disaster management authority would not create difficulties as people may not know the physical location of the authority.
“A person in a remote village, he has to go to a district office, to the collector’s office and find out. There will also be intermediaries who will try to take advantage,” the bench said.
Solicitor General Mehta submitted that the state was putting in place an online portal to resolve such difficulties and make disbursements easier and that “steps shall be taken by the state of Gujarat within a period of one week from today.”
The court said that all state governments must set up online portals for this as it will “facilitate the applicants to make applications for compensation
from their place and even a person from the remote village may not have to go to the distant place and/or a city area. It will make the procedure easier and even avoid long queues at the Collectors/Mamlatdars office”.
Perusing an affidavit filed by the Centre regarding details furnished by other states, the bench termed it as “shocking” that Andhra Pradesh, too, had come up with a scrutiny committee.
“One thing is very shocking. Andhra Pradesh says they have constituted a committee. This is what we were against,” Justice Shah said.
The bench noted that the number of claims in Gujarat was considerably low compared to the death numbers. Though 10,092 deaths have been recorded, only 1,250 claim forms have been received by the state till date, the bench said.
The solicitor general said 10,000 deaths have already been reported in the state’s portal and the government has started paying them in Direct Benefit Transfer mode.
The court pointed out that claim figures were low for Haryana and Karnataka as well while it was more than the number of recorded deaths in case of Andhra Pradesh.
Regarding Andhra Pradesh, the court said this might be because of its earlier order which said the claimant can file for compensation if the RT-PCR report was positive and the patient died within a period of 30 days, irrespective of the cause mentioned in the death certificate. The bench said that the number of claimants may increase in other states as well.
It also noted that many of the states had not provided any information to the Union government/National Disaster Management Authority” and directed the chief secretaries of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal and the Union territories of Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir to file the compliance report on the directions issued by the court in its earlier judgment.
The bench will hear the matter next on December 6.
Responding to the court’s directions in a plea seeking payment of ex-gratia to kin of those who had succumbed to Covid-19, the National Disaster Management Authority had recommended payment of Rs 50,000 per death. The court approved this on October 4. The amount is to be paid from the funds available with the State Disaster Response Fund.
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