A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, consisting of Justices AS Bopanna and MR Shah, on September 13, asked the Union Government to rethink its decision of excluding suicide as a COVID-19 related death if COVID-19 was an accompanying factor.
The aforementioned directions came in light of the compliance report submitted by the Government in fulfilment of the Supreme Court’s June 30 judgement, which directed the Government to pay compensation to those who died due to COVID-19.
In the present case, the Bench was considering the fresh guidelines notified by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to simply the process of issuing death certificates for the victims of COVID-19, in pursuit of the Court’s June 30 judgement.
The latest guidelines issued by the concerned ministry excludes death by suicide, poisoning, homicide and any accident as a COVID-19 related death, even if COVID-19 was an accompanying factor.
In response to the exclusion of death by suicide, where COVID-19 is an accompanying factor, the learned Court made it clear that such exclusion cannot be prima facie entertained, and asked the Solicitor General to re-consider this approach. Along with the aforementioned objection, the Court also made the following queries:
- What will be the timeline for constituting grievance redressal committees vis-à-vis death certificates?
- What documents need to be submitted by the family of the deceased and the documents that the hospitals need to provide?
- Status of the implementation of Centre’s guidelines by the States.
- Mechanism to address the concerns, regarding the cause of death, of those families who have already been issued death certificates.
- Status of the guidelines to be issued by the National Disaster Management Authority vis-à-vis compensation to the victims of COVID-19.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the Court that guidelines requisite to determine the compensation to be paid for COVID-19 related deaths would be in place by the time of next hearing, i.e., September 23.