New Delhi [India], June 21 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its judgment on the petitions seeking direction to the concerned authorities, to provide ex gratia monetary compensation of Rs 4 lakhs (notified in the financial aid) to the family members of the deceased, succumbed to COVID-19, as per MHA letter in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
A two-judge vacation bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprising Justice M R Shah, had asked the parties to submit the written submissions in three days.
Senior lawyer S Upadhayay, appearing for the petitioner, Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal, submitted before the Apex Court that it is the "conditional duty and obligation of the state" to help the persons (patients) affected by COVID-19.
"There is a humanitarian distress," he told the court.
Advocate and one of the petitioners, Gaurav Bansal, told the Supreme Court that the affidavit filed by the Centre stated that the pandemic is a global health challenge and the Centre has adopted a multi-prong approach.
"It is in rural India, where women are generally in-home and men are working outside, so if a man goes outside and getting affected by COVID, then the family may be seriously being in trouble," Bansal said.
Bansal sought a direction from the Court for guidelines or some kind of scheme, as far as the ex gratia amount is concerned.
To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that there is an application of mind in the case by a constitutional body which is the Finance Commission.
SG Mehta said, "The Disaster Management is applicable to the COVID pandemic. We have exercised several powers to handle the pandemic. The Finance Commission has disbursed the finance to state Disaster Response and try to help the people affected by the COVID pandemic."
"The issues of providing oxygen, and other necessary items to COVID-19 infected people, are either covered under disaster management or mitigation Act," he stated.
"The funds which have come to the Central government, in form of taxes, is a portal fund for the Central government and it is being allocated to various states for helping the needy," the Mehta told the Apex Court.
He said that the Finance Commission has now been focussing more on mitigation and preparedness and other necessary items to the needy are being taken care of.
"Everyone is entitled to 2 kg rice and 5 kg pulse as part of a food security act. The measures to enhance oxygen production levels is also disaster management act," Mehta added.
Citing financial constraints and other factors, the Central government on Sunday informed the Supreme Court in an affidavit that ex gratia amount of Rs 4 lakhs cannot be paid to the family members of those who died due to COVID-19.
According to a petition filed in the Supreme Court, keeping in view the spread of COVID-19 virus in India and the declaration of COVID- 19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), by way of special onetime dispensation, it has been decided to treat it as notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
The Central Government issued a revised list and norms of assistance from SDRF and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) through its MHA letter and recommended ex gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakhs per deceased person, the petitioner claimed.
The petition also sought the issuance of direction to respondents, respective State Governments to fulfill their obligation to take care of victims of the calamity and their family members.
The lawyers- Reepak Kansal, and Gaurav Kumar Bansal-- in their petition, filed before the Supreme Court, sought immediate appropriate directions to the concerned authorities to pay financial help or ex gratia amount of Ra 4 lakh, as laid down by the Central government in its statute and rules to the family members of the deceased, who succumbed to COVID-19 pandemic. (ANI)