The Supreme Court on Monday reserved the order on a Centre’s plea to undertake a sample scrutiny of Covid death compensation applications to identify cases where fake documents were used. Also, on the aspect of fixing a time limit for filing Covid death claim application, the bench noted that it said it may give 60 days’ time for filing claims for the persons who have already died due to Covid, and for future deaths, it could give 90 days’ time.
A bench comprising Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna noted that it may ask the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to conduct random scrutiny of 5 per cent Covid death claim applications in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Maharashtra, which recorded more claim applications than the official death figures.
At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the bench that certain reports of misuse of Covid death compensation have been noticed and urged the court to allow Centre and state governments to conduct a sample survey, as it is not possible to examine every case. Mehta also urged the top court to set an outer-limit for filing of Covid death claim application and suggested fixing the time limit as 4 weeks from Monday.
Petitioner advocate Gaurav Bansal submitted that the outer limit should be 90 days for filing the claim application, as families need some time to come over the loss of life. Bansal added that there are provisions in the NDMA, to address the issues with fake Covid claims.
Reserving the order in the matter, the bench said it may give 60 days time from for filing claims for the persons who have already died due to Covid, and for future deaths, it would give 90 days. The bench emphasized that if there are any reasons for delay in filing the claim application, then the state government should not deny it and added that the order in the matter can be expected on Wednesday.
Justice Shah said: “If there is a death, then the family would need time to recover from the sorrow and then file claims”. The Centre had submitted that without any time-limit, the claim process can become “never-ending”.
Senior advocate R Basant, appearing for Kerala, contended that in connection with fake claims, the matter should not be entrusted to the police and suggested the District Legal Services Authority could be asked to do a random verification of the claims.
The top court was hearing a plea, where it is monitoring various state governments for the distribution of Rs 50,000 fixed by the NDMA as compensation to the family members of persons who died due to COVID.