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Can’t pay ₹4 lakh ex gratia for COVID deaths, says govt

Families of Covid victims cannot be paid compensation as it applies to natural disasters only, the government told the Supreme Court, adding that states cannot afford to pay ₹ 4 lakh to every victim. In a 183-page affidavit filed late last night, the centre also added that if they pay compensation for Covid, then denying it for other diseases would be “unfair”.
The centre added that the deadly disease has caused more than 3.85 lakh deaths – which is likely to increase – and states, reeling under severe financial strain, cannot pay everyone. The government’s response comes after the Supreme Court asked it to inform its policy on Covid compensation and death certificates after a plea asked for ₹ 4 lakh for victims.

Explaining that the Disaster Management Law states that compensation applies only to natural disasters like earthquake or floods, the government said that due to the pandemic’s massive scale it would not be appropriate to apply it to Covid.

The centre in its affidavit also said due to increased health expenses and low tax revenue, states cannot afford to pay compensation for lakhs of Covid victims.

“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,” the centre added in its affidavit.

States like Madhya Pradesh have already announced a compensation of ₹ 1 lakh due to Covid deaths. Delhi too declared that if a Covid death was due to oxygen shortage during the second wave, the families will be compensated with ₹ 5 lakh.

The government also reminded the top court of its earlier judgment to keep away from executive policies and said the judiciary cannot decide on behalf of the centre.

“It is well settled through numerous judgements of the Supreme Court that this is a matter which should be performed by the authority, to whom it has been entrusted and not one where the court will substitute its own judgement for the decision to be taken by the executive,” the goverment said.

The affidavit also said that “Covid death” will be mentioned in death certificates of every victim. Doctors who fail to certify Covid deaths will be penalised, the government said.

The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday. NDTV