India’s top court has approved the government’s decision to pay 50,000 rupees ($674; £498) as compensation for every death due to Covid-19.
The Supreme Court’s decision came in response to a petition filed by lawyers seeking compensation under India’s disaster management laws.
So far, India has officially recorded over 447,000 Covid-19 deaths.
However, experts believe that the pandemic could have killed up to ten times as many people.
They arrived at different estimates after looking at excess deaths, which is a measure of how many more people are dying than would be expected based on previous years.
On Monday, Justice MR Shah stated that this compensation would be paid to the “next of kin” of the deceased person. He stated that this would be “in addition to the amounts paid by the centre and state under various benevolent schemes.”
The court also stated that compensation should be paid within 30 days of a family’s application.
Petitioners asked the court in June to intervene in the payment of compensation to the families of Covid-19 victims.
They claimed that because Covid-19 was “specially” notified as a disaster under India’s National Disaster Management Act, victims should be compensated.
The 2005 law was enacted to ensure efficient disaster management, including the development of mitigation strategies, capacity-building, and compensation for lost lives, injuries, and property damage.
According to the law, families of people who died in a disaster should receive 400,000 rupees in monetary assistance.
“We are aware that the government has spent a significant amount of money to manage the pandemic. However, we believe that the government should have paid 400,000 rupees in compensation to each affected family in accordance with the law. Or they could have given more to poor families and less to well-to-do families. They could have done better “One of the petitioners, Gaurav Kumar Bansal, told the BBC.
According to the guidelines, the compensation will be paid “to the next of kin of the deceased due to Covid-19, subject to the cause of death being certified as Covid-19.” The states will provide the funds for this compensation.
At least two states, Kerala and Rajasthan, have said that the compensation payments would put a strain on their budgets and that the funds should come from the federal government.
“You already provide funds for hailstorms, floods, and other natural disasters, so you should now include Covid-19 as well. It’s not just one state that’s been affected; it’s a pandemic “Rajasthan minister Govind Singh Dotasara told The Indian Express newspaper.
It is unclear how much the governments will be required to spend on the payout.
In August, the prime minister’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) wrote to the states, stating that it was unclear how much money should be set aside for compensation because the pandemic had not ended.
It also stated that “financial prudence requires that we plan in such a way that assistance can be provided to a greater number of people if the number of deaths increases.”
Some states, such as Karnataka, have already announced a higher compensation of 100,000 rupees to the families of those who died as a result of Covid-19. Sixteen families have already been paid so far, according to a report.