The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to reconsider its decision to exclude those who were infected with Covid-19 and died by suicide from getting compensation under the government’s guidelines, reported Bar and Bench.
The statement came ten days after the Centre framed new guidelines to simplify the process of issuing death certificates for people who died after contracting the infection.
The guidelines stipulate that cases that have been identified through an RT-PCR/Molecular Test/Rapid Antigen Test, or that have been clinically determined in a medical facility by a doctor while a patient is admitted there will be considered as Covid-19 cases, The Indian Express reported.
Deaths due to poisoning, suicide, homicide and accidents will not be classified as coronavirus fatalities, even if the infection was an accompanying condition.
The Centre has submitted these guidelines to the Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions by two lawyers seeking 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 Monday, a bench headed by Justice MR Shah told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Centre, that it did not prima facie agree with excluding people who died by suicide from the purview of compensation.
Advocate Gaurav Bansal, one of the petitioners, contended that the Centre’s decision is irrational and arbitrary, PTI reported. He referred to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences on suicide in the context of a Covid-19 diagnosis in India.
“The petitioner has learnt from the said NIMHANS [National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences] Research Study that Covid-19 related suicide rates are well above the National Average Suicide Rate and as such there is an urgent need to address the same,” he said.
On June 30, the Supreme Court held that families of those who died due to the coronavirus were entitled to compensation. The court, however, said it cannot direct the central government to pay a specific amount as compensation.
The court had also 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 welfare schemes.
On August 16, the court had asked the Centre to file a compliance affidavit on the matter by September 3. However, on September 3, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought one more week to file the affidavit.
The court subsequently castigated the Centre for the delay. “By the time you frame the guidelines, the third phase will also be over,” Justice Shah had said.