Updated: September 24, 2021 7:23:31 am
The Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to include death by suicides happening within 30 days of a person testing Covid-19 positive too as Covid-19 death, thereby entitling their next of kin to get Rs 50,000 as ex-gratia.
In guidelines submitted earlier to court on what would constitute a Covid death, the government had said deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide, accidents etc will not be treated as Covid-19 deaths. Even if the virus infection is an accompanying condition. The court had asked the government to reconsider this condition.
On Thursday, the top court conveyed its happiness to the government for fixing ex-gratia payments to the next of kin of those who succumbed to the pandemic.
“Today we are very happy. There will be some solace to the persons who have suffered. Everything the government is performing… We’re happy that something is being done to wipe out the tears of those who suffered… We have to take judicial notice of the fact that what India has done, no other country could do,” remarked Justice M R Shah, sharing a bench with Justice A S Bopanna.
The remarks came as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apprised the court that the NDMA had recommended payment of Rs 50,000 ex-gratia to the next of kin of those who died due to Covid-19. He also took the court through the guidelines brought out by the Authority to enable the payment.
“To ensure uniformity, we have decided that states will give the amount to the kin of the deceased who died due to CoVID, from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF),” he submitted.
Hearing petitions by Advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, the Supreme Court had on June 30 asked the NDMA to consider fixing ex-gratia for the victims. In response, the NDMA came up with the guidelines on September 11.
The court had also asked the government to frame simplified guidelines for issue of official documents that would help family members of Covid victims to get the ex-gratia and, if needed, pursue correction of papers issued by the municipal or other authorities in connection with the death.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) jointly brought out the guidelines that said that cases that are diagnosed through an RT-PCR/ Molecular Test/ Rapid Antigen Test, or those that have been clinically determined in a hospital or an in-patient facility by a physician while one is admitted there, will be recognised as Covid deaths.
It was also decided to treat deaths happening within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a Covid-19 case as death due to Covid-19, even if it takes place outside the hospital/ in-patient facility.
However, the guidelines said, deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide, accidents etc will not be treated as Covid-19 deaths even if the virus infection is an accompanying condition.
Considering these guidelines, on September 13, the SC asked the government to reconsider its decision not to treat suicide of a Covid-positive person as a Covid-19 death.
Taking note, the Centre in a ‘further additional affidavit’ filed on Wednesday urged the court to pass suitable directions “whereby, the family members of people committing suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as COVID-19 positive as per MoHFW/ICMR guidelines will also be entitled to avail financial help as granted under SDRF in accordance with the Guidelines dated 11.09.2021 issued by NDMA under Section 12 (iii) of Disaster Management Act, 2005”.
On Thursday, the bench also quizzed the SG on the procedure for correction of death certificates.
‘Many a times it happens that ultimately the person has died due to heart attack but that is due to Covid. The certificate would say that the cause of death is heart attack. What would happen in that case?,” asked Justice Shah.
The SG pointed out that the family members can raise their complaint before a district-level committee, to be set up by the states, which will look into medical records and review, rectify and issue a fresh certificate wherever needed.
The government requested the court that the timeline for setting up of the committee may be prescribed as 30 days, for which suitable instruction can be issued by the MoHFW.
Taking note, the court said it will issue appropriate orders.
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