How to issue COVID Death Certificate- Govt files guidelines in SC
New Delhi: The Union Government has filed a detailed affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have together, come out with guidelines on issuing Covid-19 death certificates.
This comes in compliance with the directions in the judgment passed by the apex court on June 30. The directions were issued by a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah in the cases Gaurav Kumar Bansal vs Union of India and Reepak Kansal vs Union of India and Others.
The two separate pleas had sought directions to the Centre and the States to provide ex-gratia monetary compensation of Rs 4 lakhs (notified in the financial aid) to the family members of the deceased, succumbed to COVID-19, as per MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) letter in view of Section 12 of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The petitioner, in his plea, filed before the Supreme Court, had sought immediate appropriate directions to the concerned authorities to pay financial help as laid down by the Central government in its statute and rules to the family members of the deceased, who succumbed to COVID-19 pandemic.
The petitioner had said that "it is the right of the family members to know the real cause of death of their family members/relatives on any official document" and they cited that "the medical officers have not been conducting post mortem of the persons who are dying due to COVID-19."
The petitioner had approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to the respondent States to issue death certificates/ any letter to the families of deceased stating therein cause of death.
The petition said that keeping in view the spread of the COVID-19 virus in India and the declaration of COVID-19 as pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), by way of special onetime dispensation, it has been decided to treat it as notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under SDRF (State Disaster Response Force).
In its June 30 verdict, the top court had ordered steps to simplify guidelines for issuance and correction of death certificates and official documents, stating the exact cause of death, that is, 'death due to COVID-19' for enabling dependents to get benefits of welfare schemes.
The apex court had directed that such guidelines may also provide the remedy to the family members of the deceased who died due to COVID-19 for correction of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death/Official Document issued by the appropriate authority.
The top court had, in its last hearing on August 16, also allowed the plea of the Central government, seeking 4 weeks more time to frame the guidelines on ex gratia assistance and compensation to the families of people who died due to COVID-19.
The Apex Court had directed the Centre to submit any action report on the other guidelines as referred in the earlier judgment authored by Justice Shah, and comprising of Justice (Now Retired) Ashok Bhushan on June 30, 2021.
The Central Government had filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking extension of time to comply with the earlier judgment pronounced by Justice (now retired) Bhushan in the petitions filed by lawyers, seeking ex- Gratia compensation for those family members, who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Supreme Court had in its judgement on June 30, directed the Centre to frame guidelines to pay an ex-gratia compensation to the families of those who died due to COVID-19.
A three-judge bench of the Apex Court had, on June 30, 2021, directed the NDMA to ascertain within six weeks whether an ex-gratia amount can be paid to the family members of those who died due to COVID victim.
The Apex Court also had said in its judgement that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is statutorily mandated to provide the minimum amount of relief, including an ex-gratia amount of compensation to the COVID victims.
"If it (NDMA) fails in not providing an ex-gratia amount of compensation, then the NDMA has failed in discharging its statutory duty," the Apex Court said in its judgement.
On September 3, the Court had expressed displeasure at the Central Government for its delay in issuing the guidelines for COVID death certificates. A two-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice MR Shah and also comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose had granted 10 more days further time to the Centre to frame and formulate uniform guidelines for issuance of death certificates with regard to those who succumbed to COVID-19.
"By the time you frame the guidelines, the third phase will also be over", Justice Shah had remarked while asking the Centre to file the compliance affidavit by September 11 without fail.
Accordingly, a compliance affidavit was filed before the Supreme Court on September 11.
Guidelines for Official Document for COVID19 Death
i. Covid-19 cases, for the purpose of these Guidelines, are those which are diagnosed through a positive RT-PCR/ Molecular Tests/ RAT OR clinically determined through investigations in a hospital/ in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted in the hospital/ in-patient facility.
ii. Deaths occurring due to poisoning, suicide, homicide or due to accident will not be considered as Covid-19 deaths, even if Covid-19 is an accompanying condition.
Scenario based approach and interventions
i. Covid-19 cases which are not resolved and have died either in hospital settings or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 & 4 A has been issued to the registering authority as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969, will be treated as a Covid-19 death. Registrar General of India (RGI) will issue necessary guidelines to Chief Registrars of all States/UTs.
ii. As per the study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 95 percent deaths take place within 25 days of being tested Covid positive. To make the scope broader and more inclusive, deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a Covid-19 case, will be treated as 'deaths due to COVID-19, even if the death takes place outside the hospital/ in-patient facility.
iii. However, a Covid-19 case, while admitted in the hospital / in-patient facility, and who continued as the same admission beyond 30 days, and died subsequently, shall be treated as a Covid-19 death.
iv. In cases where the MCCD is not available or the next of kin of the deceased is not satisfied with the cause of death given in MCCD (Form 4/4A), and which are not covered by the aforesaid scenarios, the States/ UTs shall notify a Committee at district level consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Additional CMOH/ Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one exists in the district) and a subject expert, for issuance of the Official Document for Covid-19 Death.
The Committee will follow the procedure outlined below:
a. The next of kin of the deceased shall submit a petition to the District Collector for issuance of the appropriate Official Document for Covid-19 Death.
b. The Official Document for Covid-19 Death will be issued in the format annexed to these Guidelines by the aforesaid district-level Committee after due examination and verification of all facts.
c. The Official Document for Covid-19 Death shall also be communicated to Chief Registrars of States/UTs and Registrar of Birth and Death, who issued the death certificate.
d. The Committee shall also examine the grievances of the next of kin of the deceased, and propose necessary remedial measures, including issuance of amended Official Document for Covid-19 Death after verifying facts in accordance with these guidelines.
e. The applications for issuance of Official Document for Covid-19 Death and for redressal of grievances shall be disposed off within 30 days of submission of the application/ grievance.
A copy of the affidavit further stated that the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI) has also issued a circular on September 3, 2021, to provide a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to the next of kin of the deceased.
The apex court fixed the matter for further hearing on September 13, Monday.
To view the official documents, click on the link below-