The Supreme Court on Friday criticised the Centre for the delay in framing guidelines to issue death certificates to the families of those who died due to Covid-19, Live Law reported.

The top court had on June 30 directed the Centre to frame guidelines to issue death certificates, so that the dependents of those who died due to the coronavirus could avail of the benefits of welfare schemes.

The court was hearing petitions filed by two lawyers who sought directions to the Centre and state governments to pay Rs 4 lakh compensation to families of those who died due to Covid-19. Four people who lost their family members due to the infection have also filed intervening petitions in the matter.

On August 16, the court had asked the Centre to file a compliance affidavit on the matter by September 3. However, on Friday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought one more week to file the affidavit.

The court castigated the Centre for the delay. “We passed the order long time back,” Justice MR Shah remarked, according to Live Law. “We have already extended the time once. By the time you frame the guidelines, the third phase will also be over.”

Mehta told the court that the matter is under process and will be finalised soon.

On June 30, the Supreme Court held that such families were entitled to compensation. The court, however, said that it cannot order the payment of Rs 4 lakh as ex-gratia compensation as there was also need to focus on prevention and mitigation of the disease.

The court had then asked the National Disaster Management Authority to form guidelines for the payment of the financial aid to the families within six weeks.

On Friday, lawyer Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for some of the applicants, told the court that the time limit for deciding on the compensation will be over on September 8, PTI reported.

The court, however, said that it is for the Centre to take a decision on the compensation within the time period.

In an affidavit filed before the court on June 20, the Centre had said that any additional financial burden by means of ex-gratia will reduce the funds available for other health and welfare schemes. It had also argued that Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, which deals with ex-gratia assistance, was not a mandatory provision.

However, the court had rejected the argument on June 30, and said that the authorities had failed in their statutory duty by failing to recommend minimum relief. “There is a duty cast on the national authority to prescribe standards of relief...” the court had said.

The Centre had also told the court in its affidavit that deaths of all citizens diagnosed with the coronavirus infection will be classified as Covid-19 deaths, irrespective of co-morbidities.

A total of 4,39,895 people have died in India due to Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. However, media reports during the second wave of the coronavirus had suggested underreporting of Covid-19 deaths in many states.