The Supreme Court on Monday again expressed concerns over misuse of claims being made for Rs 50,000 ex-gratia for COVID-19 deaths on the basis of the fake medical certificates.
A bench headed by Justice MR Shah indicated that it may order a probe by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) into the reports of fake claims for compensations.
“We never visualised that this kind of fake claims could come up. It’s a pious work. We never thought this scheme could be misused. And if officials are involved, it makes it even worse,” the bench observed.
The bench wondered if our morality has gone down so much that fake claims are being made in this (compensation for COVID-19 deaths) too.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, also informed the apex court that the applications regarding the alleged fake applications for COVID-19 compensation will be filed by tomorrow.
On March 7, Solicitor General had mentioned the issue of fake COVID-19 certificates or fake claims and how it can be curbed.
On the application of Assam seeking clarification of the order dated January 19, 2022, to the extent that if a deceased has more than one child, then will each child be entitled to get compensation separately, the bench clarified that the earlier order was very clear and that the ex-gratia compensation to be paid is on a “per death” basis.
It clarified that ex-gratia payment of Rs 50,000, ordered by the apex court, is to be paid for each death due to COVID-19 and not to each child of the affected family.
The bench said if there is more than one child, then only one child or family member shall be entitled to get compensation and if both parents have succumbed to the pandemic, then the compensation would be Rs. 50,000 for each death.
On prescribing a limitation period for the purpose of applying for COVID-19 compensation by the next of kin of those persons who have succumbed to the pandemic and curbing the practice of fake claims relating to the same, Solicitor General submitted that a fixed period such as four weeks from the date of death due to the pandemic be prescribed or fixed.
Asking the Centre to file an affidavit within two days on prescribing the limitation for filing claims for compensation, the bench posted the matter for hearing on March 21.
On the last date of hearing, the Supreme Court had warned against the misuse of its order to get compensation for COVID-19 deaths on the basis of fake medical certificates and observed that it would order an independent probe to catch those who indulged in such practices.
It had expressed serious concerns at fake certificates being issued by doctors to enable undeserving people to claim compensation for COVID-19 deaths.
Solicitor General had suggested that there has to be a definite time limit for filing the application and availing the compensation by next of kin of those who succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mehta had submitted that a limitation period should now be prescribed as the process cannot go on indefinitely.
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer-cum-petitioner, Gaurav Kumar Bansal, seeking compensation for those family members, who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, the top court had approved the Centre’s disaster management guidelines on payment of Rs 50,000 compensation to the next kin of those who died of Covid-19 deaths and said the money to be disbursed within 30 days of applying.