Delay In Covid Ex-Gratia Payment: Chief Secretaries Of These States Summoned By SC

New Delhi: Ex-gratia payment to families of COVID-19 victims in India has been anything but smooth. In some states, especially, the pace leaves a lot to be desired.

So much so that that the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that people cannot be left at the mercy of the executive and directed chief secretaries of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh to appear before it.

Andhra Pradesh’s death toll was 14,471 when the apex court last year ordered a compensation of Rs 50,000 to be paid to families of all COVID victims. The criteria for recording deaths was then relaxed, and next of kin of those who succumbed within 30 days of testing COVID-positive were also entitled to compensation.

Till January 16, Andhra received 36,205 claims, but the state has given compensation to only 11,464 persons.

“It is unfortunate that despite our earlier directions to pay compensation to kin or family members of persons who died due to COVID-19, and time and again directions issued, there is total callousness and negligence on part of Andhra Pradesh,” Justices MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said.

Also Read: SC To States: Can’t Deny Compensation If Death Certificate Doesn’t Mention COVID As Cause

The apex court was informed by advocate Mahfooz Nazki, who appeared for state government, that around 31,000 claims had been found in order and will be paid shortly.

The two-justice bench then said: “It appears the state is not at all serious on compliance of this court’s order and directions issued. No justification has been shown by the counsel for not making payment to those whose applications are found to be in order. This will tantamount to disobedience of our earlier order for which the chief secretary is liable for action under the Contempt of Courts Act.”

When the state’s advocate requested the court not to issue a showcause notice and sought time to report full compliance, the bench said: “It is unfortunate that directions of this court are taken so lightly. Your chief secretary and chief minister are not above law. People are not at your mercy. This is an order by the court and you are not obliging us by following it.”

Also Read: Odisha COVID Deaths: Kin Can Apply For Rs 50K Ex-Gratia From Today; Check The Procedure

As for Bihar, the state received 11,095 claims of which payment has been made to 9,821 persons.

“In these matters, payment has to be made immediately as these families are in need of money. A proactive approach is needed by the administration by appointing a nodal officer to ensure claims are processed at the earliest,” the bench said.

Advocate Akshay Shrivastava, representing Bihar state, submitted before the court that payment has been made to 10,782 persons out of more than 12,000 deaths.

“We are not ready to believe that only 12,000 persons died in Bihar. What is the actual figure? Now in many states, the actual death figure has increased because now they are honest. Tell your chief secretary to remain present,” the bench observed.

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