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Monday, 6 September 2021

SC not amused as Govt dragging its feet on Guidelines for Covid Death Certificates

 Covid Death.jpg 

The Supreme Court has pulled up the Centre over delay in framing guidelines for issuing death certificates to families of those who lost their lives due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), news agency PTI reported.

A 2-judge bench, comprising of Justice MR Shah and Justice Aniruddha Bose, directed the Union government to file a compliance report by September 11.

“We passed the order long time back, and have already extended the time once. By the time you frame the guidelines, the third phase will be over as well,” the bench observed.

It was referring to its June 30 order directing the appropriate authority to simplify the guidelines to issue death certificates which, it had said, should state the exact cause of death as “death due to Covid-19” to enable those who depended on the deceased to avail benefits of welfare schemes.

Appearing for the central government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the top court that “everything is under consideration.” However, advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who is one of the petitioners, argued that under the pretext of consideration, things should not be delayed further as the Centre was already granted a 4-week extension on August 16, but is now seeking further extension.

Advocate Sumeer Sodhi, who appeared for some other applicants, argued that the extension for the first direction, passed on June 30, was ending on September 8.

On this, the bench said it was adjourning the matter only for compliance with other directions. “Put up on September 13 as the Solicitor General seeks time to enable the Union of India to comply with the earlier order and place on record the compliance report of other directions placed by this court on June 30, 2021, on or before September 11,” it said.

The apex court’s primary instructions in the said order were for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to come up with guidelines, within six weeks, for ex-gratia assistance of family members of those who died due to Covid-19. The Centre, however, sought and received extension on the grounds that the NDMA’s consideration in this regard was at an “advanced stage” but required some more in-depth examination.

It was this “extension” that the advocates referred to in the latest hearing in the Supreme Court.

The court's order was on two separate petitions, one each by Bansal and Reepak Kansal. Later, four other intervenors, who lost their family members due to Covid-19, also moved court.

India’s official death toll due to the coronavirus disease is currently at 439,895, including 366 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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