SC asks states to publicise Covid ex gratia scheme

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked all states and Union territories (UTs) to give wide publicity to the Covid ex gratia payout scheme, observing that it is the duty of every welfare state to ascertain benefit reaches all eligible people.

“We are here to only see people who have already suffered, don’t suffer anymore…as a welfare state, should worry if the number of applications and claims go up because of wide publicity on ex-gratia. Every welfare state should give benefit to a maximum number of people who have suffered,” a bench of justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna observed.

The bench was taking stock of claims received by states and UTs and distribution of the ex-gratia amount of 50,000 each to applicants who lost a family member to Covid-19.

The one-time compensation is being disbursed according to the Supreme Court’s orders on June 30 and October 4, which detailed guidelines for disbursal of compensation. The norms are more accommodating than the stricter standards to determine Covid-19 deaths adopted by government-appointed death audit panels.

On Wednesday, the bench expressed its displeasure at the slow disbursal of compensation by the Maharashtra government, which reported about 140,000 deaths. “Of 85,000 applications received as of December 9, approximately 1,658 claims have been allowed and payment made. It is very unfortunate,” stated the court, as it directed the state government to clear all claims within 10 days.

The bench also asked the Uttar Pradesh government, represented through its additional advocate general Ardhendumauli K Prasad, to get the state to publish proper advertisements in the newspapers and on TV channels about the online portal for processing the ex gratia claims, besides publicising the helpline numbers.

It expressed satisfaction at the publicity given by the Gujarat government, which advertised the scheme in almost all daily newspapers of the state.

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