The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the families of Covid-19 patients who died because of the disease are entitled to ex-gratia compensation, reported Live Law. The court asked the National Disaster Management Authority to form guidelines for the payment of the financial aid to the families within six weeks.

“We direct NDMA [National Disaster Management Authority] to form guidelines for ex-gratia compensation for family members of persons who succumbed to Covid as per minimum standards of relief,” the court of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah said, according to Bar and Bench. “The reasonable amount to be provided is left to wisdom of national authority.”

The Supreme Court said that according to Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, it was mandatory to lay down the minimum standards of relief, adding that this was not based on the discretion of the authorities. Sub-section three of Section 12 under the Disaster Management Act notes “ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood”.

The court made the observation as it rejected the Centre’s argument that Section 12 was not a mandatory provision. The court noted the use of the word “shall” in the sections to establish that it was a compulsory provision, reported Live Law.

However, the court said it cannot direct the central government to pay a specific amount as compensation. The Supreme Court then directed the national authority to frame the guidelines within six weeks.

The court said that the authorities had failed in its statutory duty under Section 12 by failing to recommend minimum relief.

“There is a duty cast on the national authority to prescribe standards of relief...” the court said. “There is nothing on record that the national authority has issued any guidelines for minimum standards of relief for Covid victims, which shall include ex-gratia assistance for Covid.”

The petitioners in their writ petition had asked for directions from the Supreme Court to the Centre and states for providing ex-gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the families of those who succumbed to Covid-19. The plea also sought simplification of the procedure for issuing death certificates of Covid-19 patients.

In Wednesday’s order, the court also directed that guidelines should be simplified for the issuance of death certificates or official documents with the exact cause of death mentioned as Covid-19, according to Live Law.

“It is an unfortunate but important fact that the resources of the Governments have limits and any additional burden through ex-gratia will reduce the funds available for other health and welfare schemes,” the Centre had said in its affidavit to the Supreme Court on June 20.

Covid-19 has infected 3,03,62,848 residents of India so far and caused 3,98,454 deaths since the pandemic first emerged in the country in January last year.

India recorded 45,951 new coronavirus cases and 817 deaths on Wednesday morning, data from the Union health ministry showed. There are 5,37,064 active cases and 2,94,27,330 patients have recovered so far from the infection.

Follow today’s updates on Covid-19 here