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Contempt Petition Moved Against Centre For Non-Compliance Of Supreme Court Order On Covid Death Certificates, Ex Gratia Compensation

Shruti Kakkar
14 Sep 2021 5:14 AM GMT
Contempt Petition Moved Against Centre For Non-Compliance Of Supreme Court Order On Covid Death Certificates, Ex Gratia Compensation
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A petition for initiating contempt proceedings against Centre has been filed before the Supreme Court for their disobedience to the Top Court's judgment dated June 30, 2021 wherein the Court had directed the NDMA to frame guidelines for grant of compensation to the dependents of those who died due to COVID, issue guidelines to simplify the process of issuance of death certificates stating the cause of death as "death due to COVID" and to take appropriate steps on recommendations made by the Finance Commission in its XVth Finance Commission Report.

Filed by Reepak Kansal (petitioner in the judgement dated June 30th), the contempt petition states that Centre is duty-bound to strictly comply with the directions of the Court of law.

Kansal in his petition has sought for issuance of rule to the Centre by the apex court calling upon them as to why they should not be punished for Contempt of Court under Article 129 of the Constitution for their deliberate disobedience, willful negligence, purposive violation and calculative non-compliance of the order & Judgment dated June 30, 2021.

Relief for issuance of appropriate directions for punishment for breach of the Court's judgement has also been prayed for.

"The conduct of the alleged contemnors is preconceived, and willful disobedience intended to bring the authority and the administration of law into disrespect and disregard. It is unfortunate that an authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution did not take the order of this Hon'ble Court seriously and failed to act for the welfare of public/ family members of victims of corona during the epidemic," the contempt petition states.

The petition has also stated that despite having knowledge of the order, contemnors sat tight over the issue and have been maintaining an angelic silence regarding securing compliance of the order.

Averring that the Centre did not fully comply with Court's order, the petitioner has contended that the Centre filed a partial compliance report dated September 3, 2021, and have even failed to comply with directions of framing guidelines for grant of compensation to the dependents of those who died due to COVID.

It has also been contended that Centre did not file any further application seeking an extension of time to frame guidelines making recommendations for payment of ex-gratia assistance to dependents of those who succumbed to COVID-19 and that the time of 6 week granted by the Top Court had expired on August 11, 2021.

Litigious Chain

The Supreme Court on August 16, 2021 had granted four weeks time to the Centre to frame guidelines making recommendations for payment of ex-gratia assistance to dependents of those who succumbed to COVID-19.

The Court had sought a compliance affidavit with regard to the directions for guidelines on COVID death certificates by September 3.

On September 3, 2021, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta sought for an additional time of one week.

The Supreme Court on September 3 had directed the Union Government to show compliance by September 11 to the judicial directions passed on June 30 to frame guidelines to simplify the process for issuance of death certificates with respect to those who died due to COVID-19.

Pursuant to Court's direction the Central Government in its compliance affidavit told the Supreme Court that it had framed guidelines to simplify the process of the issuance of COVID-19 death certificates in compliance with the directions in the judgment passed on June 30.

The affidavit had also stated that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council for Medical Research had jointly issued guidelines on September 3 for issuance of an "official document" on COVID-19 deaths.

It was also submitted in the affidavit that the Office of the Registrar General of India ("ORGI") has issued a circular on 3rd September, 2021 to provide a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to the next of kin of the deceased.

On September 11, the Top Court while considering the fresh guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to simplify the process of issuance of death certificates, as per the directions in the judgment delivered on June 30 had asked Centre to revisit its decision of not including death by suicide as CoVID 19 death even if CoVID 19 is an accompanying condition.

The Top Court had also asked the Union to apprise the Court about the compliance with respect to the guidelines that were to be issued by the National Disaster Management Authority for determination of compensation.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on September 11, assured that the guidelines for determination of compensation would be in place before the next date of hearing which is September 23, 2021.

During the course of hearing Advocate Samir Sodhi while submitting that he was sure that the Solicitor General would look into all issues pointed out by the Top Court had said that he had assured his clients that there would not be any need to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre.

Upon Counsel's submission, Justice MR Shah, presiding judge of the bench had orally remarked that,

"Mr, contempt will not solve the problems. 80% of the problems have been resolved."

Case Title: Reepak Kansal v. Union of India
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