COVID-19 victims' families cannot be paid Rs 4 lakh in compensation as it applies to natural disasters only and would exhaust disaster relief funds, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Sunday.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the government stated that states cannot afford to compensate every victim.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) which sought "minimum standards of relief" and ex-gratia payment to the COVID deceased.
The government has said that compensation of Rs 4 lakh cannot be given to COVID-19 victims as the disaster management law mandating it applies only to natural calamities such as floods, earthquakes, etc.
Around 4 lakh people have died in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, as per the official COVID figures released by the Union Health Ministry.
"If ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to COVID-19, the entire amount of SDRF may possibly be spent on this item alone, and indeed the total expenditure may go up further," the Centre said in the affidavit.
"If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for COVID-19 victims, the states may not have sufficient funds for organising COVID-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc. Hence, the prayer of the petitioner for payment of ex-gratia to all deceased persons due to COVID-19, is beyond the fiscal affordability of the State governments," it added.
The Centre further stated that COVID-19 is an ongoing scenario and minimum standards of relief and compensation vary in this case from other kinds of disasters.
It added that insurance claims are being processed by the District Collectors and sent to the insurance company for disbursement of funds to the claimants.
The Centre further informed the SC that Rs 442.4 crore has been released to the insurance companies, adding that in 2019-20, additional funds of Rs 1,113.21 crore were disbursed to states/UTs for management and containment of COVID-19 under the National Health Mission.
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