NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday expressed concern over fake claims for getting ex-gratia compensation of Rs 50,000, meant for family members of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19, saying it had never visualized that this can be “misused” and had thought that the “morality” has not gone so down.
The apex court said it may entrust inquiry into the matter to the accountant general’s office. “We never expected and visualized that it can be misused also. It is a very pious work and we had thought that our morality has not gone so down that in this also, there will be some fake claims. We never visualized and thought this,” a bench of Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna said.
The bench, which had last week expressed concern over fake COVID-19 death certificates being issued for ex-gratia compensation and observed that it might order a probe into the issue, said if some officers are involved in such fake claims then it is a “very serious thing”.
The top court had earlier directed all states governments and Union Territories to appoint a dedicated nodal officer to coordinate with the member secretary of the state legal service authority (SLSA) to facilitate payment of ex-gratia compensation to the family members of COVID-19 victims.
During the hearing on Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that there are two-fold suggestions, including that the apex court may consider fixing some final limit so that whoever wants to apply, can do the same within a time frame.
The bench told Mehta that on the last date of hearing, it had asked the authority to file an appropriate application in this regard.
“We had told you to file an appropriate application and that it why the matter was adjourned for today,” the bench said. Mehta said he would file an application in this regard on Tuesday and the court may hear the matter on Wednesday. “I undertake to file it tomorrow. Kindly have it day after,” he said.
The bench told Mehta that the authority is also required to say something on the issue of fake claims in the application. “That would be included,” the solicitor general said.
The bench said let the Centre come with an appropriate application then it would consider the issue.
“Otherwise, what we can do is, that we can entrust the inquiry to the Accountant General office,” it observed.
The apex court posted the matter for hearing on March 21 so as to enable the Centre to file an appropriate application for further directions on limiting the time period to invite the applications for ex-gratia payment and seeking further direction on fake claims.
The top court was hearing pleas filed by advocate Gaurav Bansal and some intervenors who have sought ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims.
The apex court, which was earlier annoyed over the non-disbursal of Rs 50,000 ex-gratia to the kin/family members of those who lost their lives due to COVID-19, had pulled up the state governments.
It had said on October 4 last year that no state shall deny ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased due to COVID-19 solely on the ground that the death certificate does not mention the virus as the cause of death.
The court had also said that the ex-gratia is to be disbursed within 30 days from the date of applying to the district disaster management authority or the district administration concerned along with the proof of the death of the deceased due to coronavirus and the cause of death being certified as died due to COVID-19.
The top court had said that its directions for payment of compensation to the family members of the persons who died due to COVID-19 are very clear and there was no requirement at all of constituting the scrutiny committee to award compensation.
It had said it was very much made clear that even in a case where, in the death certificate, the cause is not shown as death due to COVID-19 but if found that deceased was declared positive for coronavirus and has died within 30 days, automatically his or her family members are entitled to the compensation without any further conditions.