While accepting the guidelines proposed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for granting ex-gratia assistance of Rs.50,000 to the next of the kin of the deceased Covid patients, a Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna has clarified that, "no state shall deny the assistance solely on the ground that in the death certificate issued by the appropriate authority, the cause of death is not mentioned as "Died due to Covid-19".
The Court has also asked the state to form a Grievance Redressal Committee at the district level so that the persons aggrieved with a certificate of death can approach it. Address and full particulars of the Committees are to be published in print and electronic media. The assistance shall be provided within 30 days once the application is submitted by a claimant.
The Bench has issued a series of directions while disposing of an application in a PIL filed by Rahul Kumar Bansal. Earlier on June 30, the Bench had directed the NDMA to come out with guidelines and set the minimum amount to be disbursed to the kin of the person who died due to Covid. The NDMA furnished details of the guidelines which were broadly accepted by the Supreme Court and it issued the direction in furtherance of the order issued on June 30. However, as per the guidelines, deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide, deaths due to accident etc. will not be considered as COVID-19 deaths even if COVID19 is an accompanying condition. The deaths of Covid patients by suicide are covered for assistance. The assistance shall be provided to the kin of the person died due to Corona in future phases too. Here are the directions.
Ex-gratia assistance of Rs50000 - it will be over and above the other schemes
i) The next of the kin of the deceased died due to Covid-19 shall be paid ex-gratia assistance of an amount of Rs.50,000/-, which shall be treated as ex-gratia payment under Section 12(iii) of the DMA, 2005 and which shall be minimum and which shall be over and above the compensation/amount to be paid by the Union of India/State Governments/Union Territories to be declared/provided under different benevolent schemes;
ii) The ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50,000/- shall be provided by the concerned States from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF);
iii) The ex-gratia assistance to the next of the kin of the deceased shall be disbursed by the District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration;
Wide publicity to be given to the authorities
iv) The full particulars and address of the District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration who is required to disburse the ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50,000/- shall be published in the Print Media and Electronic Media and wide publicity shall be given; that the same shall be published within a period of one week from today; it is further directed that such information shall also be published in the prominent offices of the village/taluka/district, such as, Gram Panchayat Office, Taluka Panchayat Office, District Collector Office, Corporation Office etc.;
Ex gratia assistance shall be given within 30 days from the date of submitting an application
v) Such ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50,000/- shall be disbursed within a period of 30 days from the date of submitting the application to the concerned District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration along with the proof of the death of the deceased due to Covid-19 and the cause of death being certified as "Died due to Covid-19";
vi) The amount to be disbursed as per the Guidelines dated 11.09.2021 and as observed in the order, on the death being certified as Covid-19 death for which the cause of death mentioned in the death certificate shall not be the conclusive and if other documents are provided, the next kin of the deceased who died due to Covid-19 shall be entitled to the ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50,000/-;
No State to deny the assistant for want of death certificate mentioning cause of death as Covid 19
vii) No States shall deny the ex-gratia assistance of Rs.50,000/- to the next of the kin of the deceased died due to Covid-19 solely on the ground that in the death certificate issued by the appropriate authority, the cause of death is not mentioned as "Died due to Covid-19".
viii) In case of any grievance with regard to certification of the death, the aggrieved person may approach the Committee at District level consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Additional CMOH/Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one existing in the district) and a subject expert, who shall take remedial measures including issuance of amended official document for Covid-19 death after verifying the facts on production of the necessary documents showing that the death is due to Covid-19.
ix) The Authority/Committee shall carry out the directions in the order while considering the case of the deceased as Covid-19. All the States shall constitute such Committee within a period of one week from date of order and the address location and full particulars of the said Committee at the District level shall be published in Print Media and Electronic Media having wide circulation; so far as the Corporation area is concerned, a similar Committee be constituted consisting the Deputy Commissioner, Medical/Health, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Civil Hospital in the area, if any, Additional CMOH/Principal/HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one existing in the district) and a subject expert and their office shall be at the office of the Municipal Corporation of the concerned municipality.
x) In case the decision of the Committee is not in favour of the claimant, a clear reason for the same shall be recorded by the Committee which is called a Grievance Redressal Committee.
xi) as agreed, and as per the Guidelines, the ex-gratia assistance to the families affected by Covid-19 deaths shall continue to be provided for deaths that may occur in future phases of Covid-19 as well.
Criteria for determination of death due to Covid
i) Covid-19 cases, for the purpose of considering the deaths of the deceased due to Covid-19, are those which are diagnosed through a positive RT-PCR/Molecular Tests/RAT or clinically determined through investigations in a hospital/in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted in the hospital/in-patient facility.
ii) The deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a Covid-19 case shall be treated as "Deaths due to Covid-19", even if the death takes place outside the hospital/in-patient facility.
iii) Also, the Covid-19 case while admitted in the hospital/in-patient facility and who continued to be admitted beyond 30 days and died subsequently shall also be treated as a Covid-19 death.
The assistance should be given if the family satisfies eligibility criteria
iv) Covid-19 cases which are not resolved and have died either in the hospital settings or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 & 4A has been issued to the registering authority, as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth & Death (RBD) Act, 1969, shall also be treated as Covid-19 death. However, it is observed and made clear that irrespective of the cause of death mentioned in the death certificate, if a family member satisfies the eligibility criteria mentioned in paragraphs 11(i) to 11(iv) shall also be entitled to the ex-gratia payment of Rs. 50,000/- on production of requisite documents as observed in the order, and no State shall deny the ex-gratia payment of Rs. 50,000/- on the ground that in the death certificate the cause of death is not mentioned as "Died due to Covid-19.
All hospitals shall provide documents, certificates
v) All concerned hospitals where the patient was admitted and given treatment shall provide all the necessary documents of treatment etc. to the family member of the deceased, as and when demanded, and if any hospital and/or the place where the deceased had taken treatment refuses to furnish such documents, it will be open for the Grievance Redressal Committee to call for such information and the concerned hospital/institution where the deceased was admitted shall have to furnish such particulars as required for the purpose of establishing that the death was due to Covid-19.
Covid patients who died by suicide also covered
vi) A family member of the deceased who committed suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as Covid-19 positive shall also be entitled to avail the financial help/ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50,000/- as granted under the SDRF in accordance with the guidelines dated 11.09.2021 issued by the NDMA under Section 12(iii) of DMA, 2005, as directed in the order.
Grievance Redressal Committee can summon documents from hospitals to decide cause of death
vii) If any family member/kin of the deceased died due to Covid0-19 has any grievance with respect to non-receipt of the ex-gratia payment of Rs. 50,000/-,it will be open for the aggrieved claimant to approach the Grievance Redressal Committee constituted as observed in the order, and the Grievance Redressal Committee shall examine the contemporaneous medical record of the deceased patient, and take a decision within a period of 30 days from approaching the said Grievance Redressal Committee and as observed in the order, such Grievance Redressal Committee shall have powers to call for the details/documents from the concerned hospital/hospitals from where the deceased took the treatment.
Helping hand approach
viii) All endeavors shall be made by the District Disaster Management Authority/District Administration and even the Grievance Redressal Committee to avoid any technicalities and all concerned authority shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered due to loss of a family member died due to Covid-19.
Grievance redressal in case certificates already issued
ix) In cases of the death certifications already issued and any family member of the deceased is aggrieved by the cause of death mentioned in the death certificate already issued, it will be open for the aggrieved person to move the appropriate authority who issued the death certificate and/or registering authority and on production of the necessary documents as observed in the order, including production of documents, such as, positive RT-PCR/ Molecular Tests/ RAT OR clinically determined through investigations in a hospital/ in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted in the hospital/ in-patient facility, the concerned authority shall modify/amend such death certificates. If the person is still aggrieved, it will be open for the aggrieved person to approach the Grievance Redressal Committee constituted as said per the order, and the concerned registering authority shall ratify/amend the death certificate as directed by the Grievance Redressal Committee.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Union of India are directed to issue guidelines to the concerned States/Union Territories incorporating the directions issued in the order, which shall be binding to all the States/Union Territories.