Read Judgment: Gaurav Kumar Bansal V. Union of India & Ors.

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 25, 2022: Ordering scrutiny of 5% of the claim applications filed in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra to check for false compensation claims for COVID-19 deaths, the Supreme Court has observed that nobody can be permitted to avail the ex-gratia compensation by making a false claim and/or submitting the false certificate.

The Division Bench of Justice M.R Shah and Justice B.V Nagarathna observed that one cannot misuse the benefit of ex-gratia compensation to covid sufferers as it is against morality and hence, unethical. 

The observation came pursuant to an application preferred by the Union of India – Ministry of Home Affairs seeking modification of orders passed by this Court in the captioned matter permitting any central agency to undertake a sample scrutiny to verify the claimed documents processed by respective State Governments for grant of ex gratia payment and take steps thereafter in accordance with the law.

Finding that earlier this Court had passed an order directing the Union of India/ NDMA/ concerned States to pay ex-gratia amount keeping in mind the humanity and sufferings of the family members who lost one of their kin due to COVID-19, the Apex Court noted that approximately 7,38,610 claims were received by the concerned States, and therefore, now all genuine claimants must have approached the authorities by establishing their claims. 

Although, if there is no outer time limit fixed, then the process of receiving the claims would go endless and, in that case, there is all possibility of submitting false claims, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Shah observed that the family would need some reasonable time to recover from the death and sorrow and filing the claim.Thus, the Bench has fixed the outer limit of sixty days from the date of this order (March 25, 2022) to file the claims for compensation in case the death occurred due to COVID-19 prior to March 20, 2022, whereas, for future deaths, ninety days’ time has been provided from the date of death due to COVID-19 to file the claim for compensation. 

The earlier order to process the claims and to make the actual payment of compensation within a period of thirty days from the date of receipt of claim is ordered to be continued, added the Bench. 

However, Justice Shah clarified that in case of extreme hardship any claimant could not make an application within the time prescribed, it will be open for the claimant to approach the Grievance Redressal Committee and make the claim through Grievance Redressal Committee which shall be considered by the Grievance Redressal Committee on case to case basis and if it is found by the Grievance Redressal Committee that a particular claimant could not make the claim within the stipulated time which was beyond their control his/her case may be considered on merits.

The Bench also directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Home Affairs – Union of India and all the concerned States to give wide publicity to the present order through print and electronic media so that the claimants can know the time limit fixed by this Court for making claims, added the Bench. 

So far as the allegation of submitting fake claims on submitting false certificates or obtaining the compensation on submitting the false claim was concerned, the Apex Court noted that making a false claim and obtaining any relief on that basis is a punishable offence u/s 52 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005

The Apex Court therefore permitted the NDMA/Union of India, through Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to carry out the random scrutiny of 5% of the claim applications by the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra at the first instance.

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