The Delhi High Court has recently held that security guards and paramedical staff, who acted as guides by directing patients to the correct centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, are eligible to claim benefits from the insurance package announced by the Central Government under the "Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19."

The single-judge bench, presided over by Justice Subramonium Prasad, was dealing with a writ petition filed by the wife of a security guard who worked at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic who tragically lost his life but was declared ineligible to claim the benefits from the insurance package announced by the Central Government.

The Petitioner had argued that she was entitled to the benefits provided under the "Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package" as well as the benefits outlined in the scheme introduced by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT which includes doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, sweepers, and any other personnel, whether temporary or permanent employees in the government or private sector, who lost their lives due to COVID-19 while on COVID-19 duty.

However, the State government submitted that the late husband of the petitioner was not assigned to care for COVID-19 patients, and as a result, the petitioner might not qualify for the "Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package".

Additionally, on the aspect of eligibility under the Department of Health and Family Welfare's scheme, the argument was made that the petitioner's husband worked on a contractual basis at Safdarjung Hospital, which falls under the Central Government's jurisdiction. It was also stated that since he was not engaged in any form of COVID-19 duty under the State Government, it was asserted that his case would not fall within the purview of the scheme.

Advocates Anu Mehta and Rubinder Ghumman appeared for the Petitioner while Advocates Hetu Arora Sethi and Kavita Nailwal appeared for the GNCTD.

Considering the submissions of both parties, the Court observed that security guards and paramedical staff played a vital role in ensuring hospital safety and acted as guides to direct patients to the correct centers and thus, it cannot be denied that security guards stationed at various locations were not in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

The Court further held that a narrow perspective should not be applied to the schemes. The Court also stated that the scheme was established to provide support to the families of individuals who sacrificed their lives while serving on the front lines, safeguarding the health of thousands affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Scheme has been brought out as a social welfare scheme and application of such schemes are not to be put in Procrustean beds or shrunk to Liliputian dimensions. Welfare Schemes must necessarily receive a broad interpretation. Where Scheme is designed to give relief, the Court should not be inclined to make etymological excursions [refer: Workmen v. American Express International Banking Corpn., (1985) 4 SCC 71]", stated the Judgment.

The Bench also stressed the need for a broad interpretation of welfare schemes and discouraged overly technical analyses. Concerning the scheme offered by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, it was acknowledged that its benefits were limited. Due to the petitioner's contractual employment status, she was initially deemed ineligible for the scheme. However, the Court directed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to consider the petitioner's case sympathetically, given her husband's sacrifice while on duty.

Accordingly, the Court directed to release the amount of Rs.50 lakhs in favor of the Petitioner herein within eight weeks from the date of this Order.

Cause Title: Sangeeta Wahi v. Union Of India And Ors [W.P.(C) 4912/2021]

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