Ex gratia for kin of Covid dead not off table: Centre

1 month ago 21
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NEW DELHI: The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that it has prioritised using its financial resources for investment in health infrastructure, giving succour to migrant workers and marginalised sections of society and providing stimulus to the economy over giving one time ex gratia to the families of Covid-19 victims.
However, solicitor general Tushar Mehta also informed the SC that the option of ex gratia has not been taken off the table and the government is still debating the amount that could be paid uniformly to families of all Covid-19 victims. "Some scheme for ex gratia for all Covid victims is under consideration," he said.
Mehta told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah, "It is not the case of the Centre that it does not have funds to pay ex gratia to Covid victims, but it is felt that it would be better to utilise the money to ensure better health infrastructure, food, universal vaccination and stimulus for the economy. The Centre has prioritised mitigation of difficulties of the country at large and investing in reconstruction of economy and other activities rather than one-time monetary compensation."
The Centre's affidavit had said the Centre and states, whose financial resources were overstretched in fighting the pandemic, could ill-afford payment of Rs 4 lakh ex gratia to families of Covid-19 victims.
The Centre said, "Utilisation of scarce resources for giving ex gratia may have the unfortunate consequences of affecting the pandemic response and health expenditure and hence cause more damage than good. It is an unfortunate but important fact that the resources of governments have limits and any additional burden through ex gratia will reduce the funds available for other health and welfare schemes."
The Centre further stre- ssed, "If the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex gratia for Covid-19 victims, states may not have sufficient funds for organising Covid-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods etc."
Before reserving the judgment on two petitions seeking payment of Rs 4 lakh compensation to disaster victims as per the 2015 notification, which was discontinued in 2020, Justices Bhushan and Shah asked the SG whether there could be a uniform policy for compensation to Covid-19 victims across states.

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