The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the National Disaster Management Authority has a statutory obligation to develop criteria for suggesting minimal ex-gratia assistance for COVID19 victims under the Disaster Management Act.
The Court was hearing petitions which sought directions to the Centre & States to provide ex gratia monetary compensation of Rs. 4 lacs or notified ex gratia monetary compensation to the families of the deceased who have succumbed to the pandemic of Covid-19, in view of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
A bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice MR Shah observed, “merely because some States might have been paying the ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who have died due to Covid-19 pandemic, for the reasons stated hereinabove, no writ of mandamus can be issued directing the Central Government/State Governments to pay a particular sum/amount by way of ex gratia assistance as the utilization of the fund/money by the Central Government would depend upon the priorities fixed by them which includes the money/fund to be used for prevention, preparedness, mitigation, recovery etc. Therefore, what amount to be paid by way of ex gratia assistance to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19 pandemic should be left to the National Authority/Central Government.”
Further the Court had directed the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, as mandated under Section 12(iii) of DMA 2005 for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disaster – Covid 19 Pandemic. The Appropriate Authority is directed to issue simplified guidelines for issuance of Death Certificates/official document stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19. While issuing such guidelines, the observations made hereinabove in paragraph 13 be borne in mind.