The Centre has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court saying that due to financial constraints and other factors, ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh can't be paid to family members of those who died due to COVID-19.
The Centre also further submitted to the top court in its affidavit that the Union and all state governments have spent huge amounts for needy persons to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that their finances are overstretched.
"The prayer of the petitioner for payment of ex-gratia to all deceased persons due to COVID-19 is beyond the fiscal affordability of the state governments. Already the finances of state governments and the central government are under severe strain due to the reduction in tax revenues and increase in health expenses on account of the pandemic. "Thus, utilisation of scarce resources for giving ex-gratia may have unfortunate consequences of affecting the pandemic response and health expenditure in other aspects and hence cause more damage than good. It is an unfortunate but important fact that the resources of the governments have limits and any additional burden through ex-gratia will reduce the funds available for other health and welfare schemes," the affidavit filed by the Centre said.
The Centre told the apex court that it is wrong to state that the help can be provided only through ex-gratia assistance as "it would be a rather pedantic and narrow approach". "A broader approach, which involves health interventions, social protection, and economic recovery for the affected communities, would be a more prudent, responsible, and sustainable approach. Globally, the governments in other countries too have followed this approach, and have announced interventions that provide fiscal stimulus. Government of India has followed a similar approach," it said.
On June 11, the Centre had told the apex court that issues raised in two separate pleas, seeking directions for ex-gratia compensation of Rs four lakh to the families of those who have died of COVID-19, are genuine and are under consideration of the government.
The top court had on May 24 sought the Centre's reply on these two pleas and had said that there should be a uniform policy for issuing death certificates to those succumbing to the virus.
The apex court is hearing two separate pleas seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the act, and a uniform policy for issuing death certificates. Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, one of the petitioners in the matter, had argued that under section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, every family whose member died due to disaster is entitled for ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh.
He had argued that since COVID-19 has been declared as a disaster and as per the order dated April 8, 2015, every family whose member dies due to disaster is entitled for ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh. The counsel, appearing for another petitioner Reepak Kansal, had argued that a large number of deaths were taking place due to COVID-19 and death certificates need to be issued, as only after that the affected family members can claim compensation under section 12 (iii) of the Act.
In his plea, Kansal has said that states should be directed to fulfil their obligation to take care of victims of COVID-19 and also their family members.
(With inputs from PTI)
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST