Centre seeks extension for ex-gratia compensation to COVID-19 victims' kin
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has sought an extension of four more weeks to frame guidelines for financial compensation to the kin of those who died of COVID-19. On June 30, the Supreme Court had given the NDMA a six-week deadline. Appealing for an extension, the NDMA said the exercise for framing guidelines for ex-gratia compensation is "at advance stage of consideration."
The Centre moved the Supreme Court on Monday, arguing that any accelerated formulation of guidelines under Section 12(3) of the Disaster Management Act to grant compensation may have "undesirable results." "This exercise...requires a little more in-depth examination before the same is finalized and implemented. Any accelerated formulation may lead to undesired results," the Centre said in its application.
On June 30, an SC bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah had ruled that the NDMA has a statutory obligation to frame guidelines for such compensation. However, the SC left it to the wisdom of the NDMA to determine the compensation amount, noting that the government has limited funds. The court also held that the ex-gratia assistance is mandatory, not discretionary.
"We direct the NDMA to form guidelines for ex-gratia compensation for family members of persons who succumbed to COVID-19 as per minimum standards of relief. The reasonable amount to be provided is left to the wisdom of national authority," the SC judgment read.
The SC was hearing multiple petitions seeking ex-gratia assistance to the families of COVID-19 victims. The petitioners had sought Rs. 4 lakh compensation for the kin of each COVID-19 victim. A financial relief of Rs. 4 lakh to each COVID-19 victim's family was announced last year. However, it was quickly withdrawn. This June, the Centre told the court that it had no such plan.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government recommended that the State Election Commission (SEC) pay ex-gratia to the family members of 2,020 government employees who died of COVID-19 during or after they were posted for compulsory duty in the UP panchayat polls. Reportedly, the UP government had received 3,092 applications, out of which, 2,020 poll workers were found to be eligible for compensation.