COVID – 19 Death Compensation: Supreme Court Directs States to not Reject Claims on Technical Grounds

Team SoOLEGAL 21 Jan 2022 10:14am

COVID – 19 Death Compensation: Supreme Court Directs States to not Reject Claims on Technical Grounds

NEW DELHI: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court urged states not to reject applications/claims of kin/family members of COVID – 19 victims on technical grounds. The Supreme Court further stated that if petitions are refused, states are required to explain the reason for rejection to the interested claimant and give them with an opportunity to correct the application.

A bench comprised of Justices M.R. Shah and Sanjiv Khanna remarked that numerous states have rejected a number of claims submitted after reviewing the chart placed on record by the Union of India. Gujarat, for example, had rejected 4234 applications; Maharashtra, 49113; Tamil Nadu, 10138; and Telangana, 1489. The bench asked the states to provide the details of the denial to the relevant claimant as well as the Apex Court’s Grievance Redressal Committee within one week.

During the hearing, it was also brought to the attention of the bench that several states had rejected claims. The bench chastised the states of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh for failing to comply with its prior instructions. While issuing directives, it strongly advised the two countries not to reject claims on technical grounds.

The panel was deliberating in the matter of Gaurav Kumar Bansal V. Union of India, in which it is overseeing the payment of ex – gratia for COVID – 19 killings. Previously, the court urged the states to publicise the application procedure widely in print, electronic, and social media so that victims’ relatives are aware of the compensation system.

The Supreme Court has approved the National Disaster Management Authority’s recommendation of Rs. 50,000 in compensation for COVID deaths.

When the bench learned that the Chandigarh administration had received 524 applications, 379 of which will be disbursed within a week, it demanded that the Union Territory speed the procedure and make the payment by tomorrow.

The bench was informed that in Haryana, authorities were physically visiting qualified claimants based on the state’s death record. So far, 7350 applications have been received, and 6385 candidates have already been paid. The bank has returned payment in some situations, which the state is working to settle. Some claimants have voiced dissatisfaction and others could not be located physically.

Ms. Manisha Luvkumar, appearing for the state of Gujarat, informed the Bench, that, according to data received by her yesterday, 91810 applications had been received, 59885 applicants had been paid; direct payment is pending for 11,000 applicants, which would be done in the next three days; 5161 applicants had been rejected; and 15282 applications were under process and would be completed within a week.

The bench enquired, “What are the reasons for rejection”?

Ms. Luvkumar, who was unaware of the situation, informed the Court that she would obtain the necessary information as soon as possible. Justice Khanna inquired of Ms. Luvkumar on the procedure followed by the state if the application is denied.

“When you reject, you put it on the website, the reasons for rejection?”

Ms. Luvkumar stated that if the application was refused, the petitioner might appeal to the appellate committee. Rephrasing his query, Justice Khanna asked “Do you inform that person why their application has been rejected?”

Ms. Luvkumar told the bench that she will record a specimen of the rejection letter/document delivered to the applicant over the course of the day.

The bench commented the state of Gujarat for getting about 91,000 applications despite the fact that the state’s death toll was over 10,000. It opined that the same was achievable due to the state’s extensive publicizing of the plan.

Mr. Nishe Rajan Shonker, standing on behalf of the state of Kerala, stated that as of January 05, 2022, they had received paid out money to 23,652 applicants. The bench observed that the number of registered fatalities was much more than the number of applications received –

“49300 are already registered with you. Particulars are with you. In other states the applications received are more than death registered. So far you are concerned it is the reverse. Why? ...So far as these 49000 are concerned their particulars are with you, so your officers should go to them…They must be paid compensation immediately.”

Given that the number of reported fatalities outnumbers the number of applications, the bench ordered the state to take urgent action for the 49300 claimants whose records were already on file with the state.

“So far as the state of Kerala is concerned against registered deaths of 49,300 the state has received 27274 claims of which 23562 claims have been sanctioned and paid. As ordered earlier when the particulars of death are already with the state Govt., the officers/administration must reach to those families and the particulars are already with the state govt. Shri Nishe Shonker, Ld. Counsel appearing for the state has stated at the bar that necessary instructions have been issued and he would see to it that at least with rest to those deaths registered with the state govt. the particulars of which are already with the state govt. payment of compensation shall be made to them within a period for one week today and if required the administration shall reach to those persons.”

Madhya Pradesh
Mr. Nachiketa Joshi, appearing on behalf of the State of Madhya Pradesh, informed the bench that the total number of fatalities registered is 10,543; claims received are 12,482; 10,463 applications have been granted; and disbursement has been paid to 10,442 claimants.

Mr. Rahul Chitnis, standing for the state of Maharashtra, stated that the state has paid 1,00,271 applicants and cleared claims for around 1,02,000 others. Only 2000 additional applications will be compensated.

Mr. Chitnis was informed by the bench that the state had received 2,13,000 applications, with just half of them being paid off.

The Bench was apprised of the following: “Approved only 1 lakhs, but 49000 rejected. About 50000 applications are being considered.” Given that the state of Maharashtra has had the highest number of deaths as a result of COVID – 19, the bench urged that it be more aggressive in disbursing compensation. The bench inquired, “What are the grounds for rejection?” after noting that 49000 applications had been refused.

Mr. Chitnis reacted, saying – “Some people have not given their details, no document annexed, some people have applied twice…in some cases it does not tally with ICMR deaths.”

The bench made it clear that the state should only examine the death certificate, the RT PCR certificate, and the Aadhaar Card. “Have you notified them?” the bench inquired further. Mr. Chitnis informed the bench that collectors had visited the applicant’s houses to notify them. The bench, among other things, ordered the state to produce facts regarding the denial of the petitions.

“Shri Rahul Chitnis, Ld. Counsel for the state has stated at the bar that total 1,41,887 registered deaths against which state has received 2,17,151 claims. It is reported that out of the applications received 1,02,772 have been approved and the payment shall be made. It is reported that 49,113 claims have been rejected on various grounds. It is stated at the Bar that with respect to the balance applications, the same are under process and actual payment shall be made in a week from today. On the next date of hearing Ld. Counsel to place on record in a tabular chart the reasons for rejection of the claims and whether all claimants whose forms have been rejected have been informed and given opportunity to take corrective measures.”

Ms. Ranjeeta Rohatgi representing for the state of Punjab, informed the Bench that a total of 8786 claims had been received and payments had been given to 6667 claimants. “What actions have you taken when 16517 fatalities have been reported in your state?” the bench inquired. The inquiry went unanswered due to network constraints.

Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand
The bench noted that in the state of Himachal Pradesh, 3821 deaths have been reported and 670 petitions have been received. Again, there are 5140 reported deaths in Jharkhand, but just 122 petitions have been received as of December 03, 2021.

“These are states that your lordships did not send notice to”, Ms. Bhati addressed the bench. She was directed to contact the Chief Secretaries and ensure that the compensation is distributed to the qualifying applicants. On the subject of application denial, the bench instructed the States –

“From the chart produced by Ms. Bhati, Ld. ASG it appears that in many states number of claims are rejected. For eg. In Gujarat 4234 claims are rejected; Maharashtra 49113 claims rejected; Tamil Nadu 10138 claims rejected; Telangana 1489 claims rejected. The reasons for rejection maybe due to incomplete form and/or incomplete particular etc. We direct all states that whenever the claims are rejected the reasons for rejection must be communicated to the concerned claimants and they be given an opportunity to rectify the claims/applications. We also observe that no claims may be rejected on technical ground and if there is any lacunae in the claim an opportunity should be given to the concerned claimant to rectify the mistake… Such particulars of rejection shall be sent to the concerned applicant and the grievance Redressal committee constituted pursuant to order of this court within a period of one weeks from today.”

Concerned that the state governments are not taking the initiative and that in some states, people whose details are on file with the state have yet to be compensated, the bench indicated that it would seek the assistance of the State Legal Service Authorities and the District Legal Service Authorities to complete the process.

“Ms. Bhati, what we propose today is wherever it is found that applications received are less than death registered, we will direct the State Legal Services Authority to intervene. We will direct the concerned State to provide particulars of all the deaths registered with them and the applications so far received. With respect to rest we will direct the State Legal Services Authority through District Legal Service Authorities to reach them. If the State Govt. is not doing then we will do it now. They will act as ombudsman. When 2001 earthquake was there, High Court took the service the Legal Service Authority and they were directed to act as an ombudsman.”

On the petitioners’ request, the bench further asked the state authorities to contact the children who have lost their parents due to COVID – 19 and whose information is accessible on the Bal Swaraj Portal in order to aid them with their claims.

“It is reported that in the entire country and as per information uploaded on Bal Swaraj portal approx 10,000 children have lost both the parents, therefore it will be very difficult for them to make an application or submit a claim for compensation. We direct concerned states to reach to those children who have lost both their parents/surviving parents and whose particles are already uploaded on Bal Swaraj portal so that compensation can be paid to them. We also direct the concerned state to share the full information/particulars w.r.t. the no. of deaths recorded by the concerned states as well as the information uploaded on the Bal Swaraj portal to the concerned Legal Services Authority.”

Tagged: Supreme Court   Justice M.R. Shah   Justice Sanjiv Khanna   Apex Court   Union Territory  
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