Home / News / India /  Govt refuses 4 lakh ex-gratia

The Centre has ruled out the grant of ex-gratia compensation of 4 lakh for each of the nearly 3.85 lakh persons who died because of covid-19 in the country.

The finances of both the Centre and states are under severe strain as a result of reduced tax revenues and increased expenditure on health infrastructure because of the pandemic, the Centre said in an affidavit filed late on Saturday in the Supreme Court.

The Centre felt it would be better not to spend scarce financial resources for granting ex-gratia, keeping in mind the scale of deaths caused by the pandemic that is still raging across the country.

“Already the finances of state governments and the central government are under severe strain because of the reduction in tax revenues and increase in health expenses on account of the pandemic. Thus, utilization of scarce resources for giving ex-gratia may have the unfortunate consequence of affecting the pandemic response and health expenditure in other aspects and hence cause more damage than good," stated the affidavit filed by Govind Mohan, additional secretary, ministry of home affairs.

The government also urged courts not to interfere in policy decisions. “It is well settled through numerous judgments of the Supreme Court that this is a matter that should be performed by the authority (National Disaster Management Authority), to whom it has been entrusted and not one where the court will substitute its own judgment for the decision to be taken by the executive. Any attempt to second guess may create unintended and unfortunate constitutional and administrative ramifications," it said.

The affidavit came in response to two public interest litigations (PILs) listed before the Supreme Court on Monday. The PILs filed by lawyers Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal referred to two notifications of the central government. One was issued on 14 March 2020 declaring covid-19 as a notified disaster under the National Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2005, while the other was issued on 8 April 2015 quantifying ex-gratia compensation of 4 lakh to victims killed in a notified disaster. This money is to be paid from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), according to Section 12(iii) of the DMA.

Bansal’s PIL raised the issue of compensation for healthcare workers who have died while performing covid-19 duties.

Public health is a state subject and the burden would fall on the SDRF to pay the compensation, the Centre said. For all states combined, the total budget allocated to the SDRF this year is 22,184 crore.

“If the entire SDRF fund is consumed on ex-gratia for covid-19 victims, states may not have sufficient funds for organizing covid-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or for taking care of other disasters such as cyclones and floods," the Centre submitted.

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