New Delhi: Taking a cue from the Gujarat High Court order passed in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake in the State, the Supreme Court has directed all the States to share the particulars of registered death due to COVID along with details of payment of compensation with State Legal Services Authorities to reach out to the affected families.
The top court said that the member secretary of the State Legal Services Authority shall act as an Ombudsman and as the facilitator.
It asked the States to cross-check/verify whether with respect to all the deaths recorded/registered, the claims are received or not and if it is found that with respect to some of the deaths recorded/registered, no payment has been made to the affected families its official must try to reach out to them.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna passed a detailed order on Thursday and said, We also direct all the States to furnish full particulars/ information to the concerned State Legal Services Authorities with respect to deaths recorded/registered and also the particulars whether the payment of compensation with respect to those deaths have been made or not .
It made it clear that the said exercise of sharing of details of recorded death and particulars of payment of ex-gratia to the family member or kin shall be completed by the concerned States, within ten days.
If it is found by the Member Secretary of the concerned State Legal Services Authority that with respect to deaths recorded, the claims are not received and/or the amount of compensation is not paid, in that case, the concerned State Legal Services Authority through the concerned District Legal Services Authority and/or Taluka Legal Services Authority, as the case may be, shall reach to the concerned persons so that claims are submitted and actual payments are made to them , the bench said.
Justice Shah, while hearing the submissions on disbursal of claims on Wednesday, had said that the top court may follow the Gujarat High Court model involving State Legal Services Authority for providing relief to the affected families.
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and intervenors, represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi, seeking ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims.
It said, we also direct the concerned States to cross-check/verify whether with respect to all the deaths recorded/registered, the claims are received or not and if it is found that with respect to some of the deaths recorded/ registered, still the claims/applications for payment of compensation are not received, as observed hereinabove, the States must reach to them as the relevant particulars/ information must be available with the States .
The Gujarat High Court on February 17, 2001, in its verdict passed in the aftermath of the massive earthquake on a plea raising apprehensions on improper utilisation of relief materials and funds for the quake victims leaving the victims high and dry, has appointed District Judge in each district, who is ex-officio Chairman of District Legal Services Authority constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, as Ombudsman in his district.
It had said that the role of Ombudsman is not to supervise or oversee the relief and rehabilitation operations of the Governmental agencies, but he would receive complaints and grievances of the quake victims, and after necessary investigation with the assistance of Legal Services Authorities and NGOs, bring them to the notice of the government officials and agencies in charge of relief and rehabilitation programmes.
On the morning of January 26, 2001, an earthquake of a high magnitude, more than 7 on Richter Scale, had shaken the whole of Gujarat and more devastatingly of its entire Kutch district, leaving thousands dead, injured, crippled, orphaned, and homeless.
The top court had on Wednesday, in an effort to provide some help to over 10,000 children who lost both their parents to COVID-19, directed all the state governments to reach out to those kids and pay them compensation.
The apex court, which was 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 and summoned the Andhra Pradesh and Bihar Chief Secretaries virtually to seek explanation during the day.
It had also issued a show-cause notice to Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Sameer Sharma as to why contempt action be not initiated against him for non-compliance of top court’s earlier order on disbursal of claims.
The top court had taken note of the submissions of petitioner Gaurav Bansal and advocate Sumeer Sodhi, that over 10,000 children have been orphaned due to COVID and other reasons since the start of the pandemic and they should be compensated.
It is stated that in the entire country as per the information uploaded on Baal Swaraj portal (of NCPCR) approximately 10,000 children have lost both the parent or a surviving parent. It will be very difficult for them to make their application or submit a compensation claim.
“We direct the concerned states to reach out to those children, who have lost both their parents and whose particulars are already uploaded in the Baal Swaraj portal and so that the amount of compensation can be paid to them, ” the bench had said. PTI