New Delhi: Family members of people who committed suicide within 30 days of being diagnosed with COVID-19 will be entitled to Rs 50,000 ex-gratia assistance as per the guidelines, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a COVID case will be treated as deaths due to COVID-19′, even if the death takes place outside the hospital/ in-patient facility, the government clarified.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna was informed by the Centre that a COVID-19 case, admitted to the hospital/in-patient facility, and who continued to be admitted beyond 30 days but died, will also be treated as a COVID-19 death.
It is respectfully submitted that suitable directions in this regard may be passed by this Court, whereby, the family members of people committing suicide within 30 days from being diagnosed as COVID-19 positive as per MoH&F/ICMR guidelines will also be entitled to avail financial help as granted under SDRF in accordance with the Guidelines dated September 11, 2021 issued by NDMA under Section 12 (iii) of Disaster Management Act, said the affidavit filed by the Centre.
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and some intervenors represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi, who have lost their family members to COVID-19, seeking ex-gratia assistance to the kin of those who lost their lives to the deadly virus.
The COVID-19 cases which are not resolved and those who died either in hospitals or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 and 4 A has been issued to the registering authority, as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969, will be treated as a COVID-19 death.
“Further, under the Guidelines any certificate of death issued by hospitals/ government authority prior to coming into force of the Guidelines dated September 3, 2021, can be reviewed and rectified and consequently freshly issued, the government said.
It added that the next of kin of the deceased can raise a grievance before the concerned District Level Committee, as envisaged in guidelines issued on September 3, that the cause of death of his/her kin was COVID related as per the parameters prescribed, however, the death certificate issued do not recognises it as death due to COVID-19′ and mentions some other incidental cause in the death certificate.
The affidavit said that when such application is being made to the district committee it would examine the contemporaneous medical records of the deceased patient and if it panel comes to the conclusion that the case of the applicant indeed falls within the parameters then it would issue a fresh or corrected certificate for the deceased, certifying his death to be COVID related death, eligible for financial/other assistance as provided by the Central Government/SDRF.
Further, the district level committee proposed in the guidelines shall also consider any dispute between the hospital and the family regarding the cause of death, it said.
The government said that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has further clarified that death certificate indicating COVID-19 deaths either already issued prior to coming into force of September 3 guidelines or as rectified by the District level committee shall be treated as the valid document for considering any death as death due to COVID-19′.
It said that the timeline for setting up of the district level Committee by the States will be prescribed as 30 days for which suitable instruction will be issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
This court may also pass a mandamus directing all state governments/UTs to constitute the said committee within 30 days in the interest of justice , it said, adding that the court may also issue directions to all the states to comply with the guidelines scrupulously.
The affidavit was taken on record by the bench, which said it will necessary orders on October 4, in the matter keeping all aspects in mind.
In another affidavit filed in the top court on Wednesday, the Centre said that National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued its guidelines on September 11, recommending that Rs 50,000 be given to the kin of those who died of COVID-19.
The assistance will not be limited to families affected by COVID-19 deaths in the first and second wave of pandemic but will continue in future phases of the pandemic as well, the authority had said.
The ex-gratia assistance will be provided by states from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and all claims will be settled within 30 days of submission of required documents, and disbursed through Aadhaar linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures, it had added.
The apex court had in its June 30 verdict directed the NDMA to recommend within six weeks the guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons who died due to COVID-19.