New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rapped some of the State governments like Kerala and Bihar for the low number of claims received for death due to COVID and the high number of rejection of applications saying that those eligible must get ex-gratia payment.
The top court said that it rejects the COVID-19 death toll given by Bihar, and pointed out that these are not actual but government figures.
"We are not going to believe that only 12,000 people died in the state of Bihar due to Covid," the bench told the counsel appearing for the Bihar government.
The bench noted that in Telangana there are only 3,993 deaths recorded and it has received applications for claims 28,969, while Kerala has 49,300 recorded deaths due to COVID but applications for the claim were just 27,274.
"What is this going on in Kerala? Unlike other states, why are there so many less claims? You have recorded deaths and their particulars, why cannot the state government officials reach out to the family or the kin for compensation. Let your people go to the district, Taluka level and find out the family members of COVID victims", the bench told the counsel for Kerala government.
It directed the Kerala government to issue necessary directions to its officials to reach to the kin of the person, who have lost their lives due to COVID and whose death is registered with the authorities and ensure payment of compensation.
The Maharashtra government in its latest figures has said that out of the 1,41,885 deaths recorded due to COVID, it has received 2,17,151 claims applications out of which it has paid 1,00,271 and 49,000 applications have been rejected.
The state government claimed that it being a bigger state, it has the highest number of deaths due to COVID and has made elaborate arrangements for disbursal of claims to the next of kin and the figures are continuously changing.
Similarly, the Gujarat government has 10,094 recorded deaths and as per updated figures it has received 91, 810 applications for a claim out of which 59,885 have been paid and around 5,000 have been rejected and 15,000 are under examination of being processed.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said that there should not be any rejections of claims due to technical reasons and state government officials should reach out to the claimants and rectify their mistakes.
Our anxiety is that we want all the eligible people to get the compensation so that they can get some relief, the bench told counsels for the State governments.
The court was hearing a batch of pleas by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and intervenors, represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi, seeking ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims.
The bench also asked counsel for the Gujarat government to place on record the details of rejection and asked the State to ensure that there are no rejections merely on the technical ground like non-filing of particulars.
Justice Khanna said that it is surprising why there are so many gaps in the figures of the deaths recorded and claims of applications.
The bench said that if the States cannot identify the claimants, then it will involve the State Legal Service Authority and District Legal Service Authority to identify and facilitate payment of compensation like it was done by Gujarat High Court during the 2001 earthquake.
According to the data submitted by the Centre in the court, Assam has 6,185 deaths but the application for claims received so far is 4,092 and 3,044 claimants have been paid.
In Karnataka, there are 38,376 recorded deaths and claims received so far are 27,325 and payment has been done to 26,558 people while payment through direct benefit transfer has been unsuccessful to 3583 claimants.
In Madhya Pradesh, there are 10, 543 recorded deaths, and applications for claims have been received are 12,485 while payment has been disbursed to 10,400.
The bench noted that in Punjab there are 16,557 deaths recorded and only 8756 applications have been received while payment has been disbursed to 6642 claimants.
In Rajasthan, there are 8955 recorded deaths and 281 applications were received after the advertisements were published and 8633 claims have been processed.
On November 18 last year, the top court had pulled up the Gujarat government for issuing a notification that was "just contrary" to the directions given regarding ex-gratia to the next of kin of those who died due to COVID-19 and said an attempt has been made to "overreach" the directions issued by the apex court.
It had said on October 4 last year that no state shall deny ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased due to COVID-19 solely on the ground that the death certificate does not mention the virus as the cause of death.
The top court had also said that the ex-gratia is to be disbursed within 30 days from the date of applying to the district disaster management authority or the district administration concerned along with the proof of the death of the deceased due to coronavirus and the cause of death being certified as died due to COVID-19.
It had said that its directions for payment of compensation to the family members of the persons, who died due to COVID-19, are very clear and there was no requirement at all of constituting the scrutiny committee to award compensation.