The court overruled a 1998 judgment by a five-member constitution bench that gave immunity to elected representatives from prosecution in bribery cases.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is statutorily mandated to provide minimum standards of relief, which should include ex-gratia for those who have succumbed to Covid.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said by not providing ex-gratia amount, the NDMA has failed in discharging its statutory duty.
“There is a duty cast on the national authority to prescribe minimum standards of relief. 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 bench, also comprising Justice M.R. Shah, directed NDMA to form guidelines for ex-gratia compensation for the family members of persons who died due to Covid as per the minimum standards of relief.
The top court emphasized that the guidelines should be put in place within six weeks. “What reasonable amount to be provided is left to the wisdom of national authority,” said the bench, adding that it is not proper for the court to direct a particular amount of compensation.
The Court rejected the argument of the Union Government that Section 12 was not a mandatory provision. The bench said the word used in Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act is as “shall” and is a mandatory one, and added to construe the word “shall” as “may” will defeat the purpose of the provision.
The bench added the death certificate issued for Covid patients should have simple guidelines, including the date and cause of death. “There will be also facility for correcting the cause of death if family is not satisfied,” added the bench.
The top court order came on PILs which were filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal seeking court’s intervention for payment of Rs four lakh ex-gratia amount to the Covid victims’ families.
Bansal cited Section 12(iii) of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) providing for ex-gratia monetary compensation for the families of those who died during a notified disaster.
In its judgment, the relevant portions of which were read out by Justice MR Shah today morning, the Court held that the National Disaster Management Authority failed to discharge its functions by not recommending ex-gratia assistance.