Those who died by suicide after COVID-19 infection should get compensation: SC tells Centre
New Delhi: Reflecting on the recent affidavit of the Central Government indicating the guidelines for issuing COVID-19 death certificates, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to reconsider its decision of excluding persons who committed suicide after being diagnosed with the infection from availing compensation.
The top court bench comprising of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna clarified it before Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that it did not prima facie agree with the Government's decision of excluding such persons.
The bench said that exclusion of suicides where Covid-19 was an accompanying condition cannot be prima facie accepted under the guidelines.
"You have to reconsider this", the top court was quoted saying by PTI.
The top court was considering the fresh guidelines issued by the Centre to simplify the process of issuance of death certificates, as per the directions in the judgment delivered on June 30.
Medical Dialogues had recently reported that in compliance with the directions in the judgment passed by the Apex Court on June 30, the Union Government has recently filed a detailed affidavit before the top court and mentioned that the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had together, come out with guidelines on issuing Covid-19 death certificates.
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 top court's verdict had come on two separate pleas filed by lawyers Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide Rs four lakh as compensation to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the Act.
Four intervenors, who had lost their family members due to Covid have also moved the top court through advocate Sumeer Sodhi contending that there cannot be any discrimination in the amounts being paid by different states to family members of those, who had succumbed to the deadly infection.
Accordingly, a compliance affidavit was filed before the Supreme Court on September 11.
"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 and 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," according to the guidelines.
The Registrar General of India will issue necessary guidelines to chief registrars of all states and union territories in this regard.
However, the Guiding Principles clearly mentioned, "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."
While reflecting on the Guidelines, the apex court asked the Solicitor General about the persons who committed suicide while they were suffering from Corona.
Further, the bench also questioned the implementation of the policy by the states and the queries of the court included, the timeline for constituting of Committee for redressal of grievances regarding death certificates, documents that the family needs to submit before the Committee, documents that the hospital would need to provide, etc.
Besides, the Centre has been also asked by the bench to look into the certificates that have been already issued and the remedy that the family members would get if they have disputes regarding the cause of death. Apart from this, the Union has been asked to apprise the court about the compliance with respect to the guidelines that the National Disaster Management Authority needs to issue for the determination of compensation.
Responding to all this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as assured the court that the guidelines for determining the compensation would be submitted before the bench before the next date of hearing i.e. on September 23, 2021.
Advocate Gaurav Bansal submitted that Centre's decision to exclude suicide from Covid-19 deaths even if Covid-19 is an accompanying condition is irrational and arbitrary.
"Recently National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (hereinafter referred as NIMHANS) also issued a Research Study titled as "Suicide in the context of Covid-19 diagnosis in India: Insights and implications from online print media reports.". The petitioner has learnt from the said NIMHANS Research Study that Covid19 related suicide rates are well above the National Average Suicide Rate and as such there is an urgent need to address the same," Bansal said in an affidavit.