2021-10-05 12:46:27 Top Indian Court Orders Payments to Covid Victims’ Families

Top Indian Court Orders Payments to Covid Victims’ Families

NEW DELHI — The death toll from coronavirus in India could now amount to a government payout in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The country’s Supreme Court has ordered India’s disaster management agency to pay 50,000 rupees (approximately $671) to the families of people who died as a result of Covid. The official death toll from the pandemic in India is 449,260, but experts believe the true number of Covid deaths is several times higher. Even a smaller number would imply payouts of around $300 million.

Because the government has expanded the definition of what qualifies as a Covid-19 death to anyone who died within 30 days of a positive RT-PCR test or clinical examination confirming the infection, the number of families applying for compensation could quickly skyrocket.

“This is a herculean task for the government,” said Gaurav Kumar Bansal, the lawyer who brought the case to the Supreme Court of India.

According to India’s National Disaster Management Act, families who lose relatives in typhoons, floods, and other disasters are entitled to government compensation of 400,000 rupees (approximately $5,400).

Millions of India’s 1.4 billion people live in poverty, and the Supreme Court order, issued on Monday, was in response to public interest litigation, a type of case in India brought on behalf of the general public rather than a specific plaintiff.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the pandemic a disaster in March 2020, giving it the authority to impose a strict nationwide lockdown.

According to Mr. Bansal, the disaster declaration should have resulted in compensation payments as well.

“We challenged them to choose and choose again,” he explained. “If declared a disaster, all provisions of the Disaster Management Act will apply.”

The government was willing to pay $671 per death. The Supreme Court agreed, after taking into account the agency’s other costs.

Anirudh Singh Rathore, 60, a garment trader in New Delhi, lost his wife last spring to India’s ferocious second wave. He applied for compensation online through the Delhi government, but he is skeptical that the money will arrive.

“Such compensation is difficult to obtain from the government,” he explained. “It is simple to announce but difficult to obtain.”

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Top Indian Court Orders Payments to Covid Victims' Families