On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking ex-gratia payment of Rs.50 lakh to kin of lawyers aged below 60 years who died due to COVID-19. An SC bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Justices Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna was hearing the petition filed by advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav. The court made it clear that no exception can be created for lawyers citing that many persons have passed away due to the novel coronavirus.
The apex court observed, "This is a publicity interest litigation petition and just because you are in a black coat, doesn't mean your life is more precious than others. Time has come that we have to stop the lawyers from filing these bogus PILs". It added that not even one ground mentioned in Yadav's petition was relevant.
Supreme Court dismisses a plea seeking direction that compensation of Rs 50 lakh each to be granted to family member of lawyers who died due to COVID-19 or in any other manner within the age of 60 years with immediate effect.— ANI (@ANI) September 14, 2021
SC says it can't make exceptions for lawyers. pic.twitter.com/q1fj3cZfmj
A division bench of the SC comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah on June 30 directed the Centre to frame guidelines for the payment of ex-gratia to the kin of COVID-19 victims. It held that the National Disaster Management Authority has failed in discharging its duty by not prescribing guidelines under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act. At the same time, the bench took into account the fact that the government had its own priorities such as providing food and shelter to the migrants and managing the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
The SC said, "No country has unlimited resources. Dispensation of the same is based on a number of circumstances, facts, law. Therefore, we don’t think it is proper to direct the Union to pay a particular amount. This is to be fixed by the government. Ultimately, the priorities are also to be fixed by the government". The NDMA was given the freedom to fix the compensation amount based on various factors including the availability of funds under NDRF, SDRF and other priorities.
Moreover, the bench also ruled in favour of simplified guidelines for the issuance of death certificates. Welcoming this judgment, the Congress party asked the PM to provide a relief of Rs.10 lakh to families of the novel coronavirus victims. While the Centre framed detailed guidelines for the issuance of death certificates, the SC asked it to reconsider the clause which states that deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide and accident, among others, will not be considered as COVID-19 deaths even if the infection is an accompanying condition.