The Supreme Court in India approved on Oct. 4 a government plan to pay only 50,000 Indian rupees ($671) as compensation to families of COVID-19 victims.
The court order followed two petitions filed by lawyers Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal last June, arguing that the government was bound by the Disaster Management Act of 2005 to provide compensation to those who died of COVID-19 because it had classified the pandemic as a disaster.
While the petitions sought compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,364), a Supreme Court bench of Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna approved the amount of 50,000 rupees that the government set.
The government had argued that granting 400,000 rupees was “beyond fiscal affordability” as funds were needed for other pandemic purposes.
“We know the government has spent a lot of money in managing the pandemic. But we still think the government should have paid 400,000 rupees compensation to every affected family according to the law. Or they could have given a higher amount to the poor families and less to the well-to do. They could have bettered it,” Bansal told BBC News.
Additionally, the Supreme Court directed the government to pay the compensation within 30 days of the families’ application.
The Supreme Court also warned the government not to dismiss compensation claims solely because the death certificate did not mention COVID-19.
However, the court also specified that “deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide” and accident will not be considered as COVID-19 deaths, even if COVID-19 was an accompanying condition, according to a report by British online newspaper The Independent.
According to government data, India has recorded 448,997 COVID-19 deaths, which means that it will cost provincial governments over $300 million if every family who has lost someone from COVID-19 gets the compensation.
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