When the Center shrugged off: the Supreme Court reminded a section of the NDMA Act

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Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for compensation to the families of those who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an important order today, he said that it is not necessary that the kin of the deceased should get only Rs 4 lakh as compensation, but they will have to pay compensation as it is a constitutional obligation of the government. Referring to Section-12 of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Act, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that a provision has been made to give compensation on death in disaster, which is the responsibility of the government to fulfil.

The government’s argument rejected

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court ordered the NDMA to prepare guidelines. The Supreme Court said that the NDMA in its guidelines should recommend the minimum compensation amount in the case of death due to Covid. Keep in mind that in the case of death due to Covid, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court to give compensation of Rs 4-4 lakh to the relatives of the deceased. The Supreme Court rejected the contention of the Central Government in which the Center had said that the provision of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act is not mandatory.

Supreme Court clarified on the spirit of Section-12

The Supreme Court said that under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, it is the legislative responsibility of the NDMA to prepare guidelines and recommend a minimum compensation amount for the victims in the event of a national calamity. The Supreme Court, in its decision, said that the word ‘shall’ has been used in section 12 and its meaning is mandatory. However, the Supreme Court did not give any such direction for the central government to pay such compensation amount. The Supreme Court has asked the NDMA to frame guidelines for compensation to victims in case of death from Covid within six weeks and recommend payment of minimum compensation amount.

NDMA should decide how much amount is appropriate: Supreme Court

In its decision on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that in the matter of giving compensation to the kin of the deceased in the case of death due to Covid, we direct the NDMA to set guidelines so that relief is given under the minimum scale. We leave it to the National Authority to decide the appropriate amount for compensation. The Supreme Court has also said in its direction that while issuing the death certificate in the case of death due to Covid, the date and cause of death should be written as Covid. The court said that if the family members are not satisfied, then facilities should be provided to correct the cause of death.

Question to the government on the petition

In the Supreme Court, petitioner Gaurav Kumar Bansal and another petitioner have said that in case of death due to Covid, Rs 4 lakh each should be given to the relatives of the deceased. During this, the Supreme Court had questioned the Central Government whether the PM-led NDMA has decided that in case of death due to Covid, Rs 4 lakh compensation cannot be given to the family members? The Supreme Court had questioned whether the preparation of a Uniform Compensation Scheme can be considered to remove any kind of regret in the minds of the families of those who died of Covid.

The Center had shied away from the lack of funds

In fact, the central government has said in its affidavit that it is beyond their financial capacity to give compensation to the relatives in the death due to Covid and the central and state governments are in serious financial trouble. However, during the hearing, the Solicitor General had said that the issue is not whether there is financial trouble or lack of funds, but the matter is how to use the funds properly.

Thus the center surrounded in the Supreme Court

During the hearing, counsel for the petitioner SB Upadhyay submitted that paucity of funds or compulsion cannot be used to evade constitutional obligation.

He said, ‘We respect all the schemes of the government, but there is a legislative provision here and can the financial compulsion of the government become the basis to save it from discharging its constitutional obligation?’

In the application filed in the Supreme Court, it was said that for this there should be a uniform policy that people who have died due to corona virus should be compensated. The Supreme Court had asked the central government to present the guidelines under which there is a provision to issue death certificate after death from Covid.

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