22 Nov 2021 9:47 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Gujarat Government for constituting a scrutiny committee for the disbursal of ex-gratia compensation for COVID deaths, in deviation from the Court-approved process.A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna had on November 18 observed that the constitution of the scrutiny committee appeared to be "an attempt to overreach the...
The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Gujarat Government for constituting a scrutiny committee for the disbursal of ex-gratia compensation for COVID deaths, in deviation from the Court-approved process.
A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna had on November 18 observed that the constitution of the scrutiny committee appeared to be "an attempt to overreach the directions" passed in the judgment in the case Gaurav Kumar Bansal versus Union of India.
Today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat Government, submitted at the outset that an amended resolution has been issued pursuant to the Court's direction. The SG however added that even the amended resolution needs some tweaking.
"Who passed the first notification?Someone should take responsibility?", Justice Shah asked.
"I take responsibility", the SG replied.
"Why should you take responsibility? The concerned officer must. Who drafted this?", Justice Shah asked.
The SG then informed the bench that Manoj Aggarwal IAS, the Additional Chief Secretary, has joined the virtual hearing. The bench then turned to the Secretary.
"Who drafted this?Who approved this?It is whose brain child?", Justice Shah sought to know.
"It was drafted in the department and it goes through several officials and finally the competent authority gives the approval", the Secretary replied.
"Who is the competent authority?", Justice Shah asked.
"Sir, Competent Authority is top-most level", Agarwal said.
"Tell us, who is it?", Justice Shah asked.
"Sir, it is the Chief Minister", came the reply of the Secretary.
"Your Chief Minister does not know anything? Mr Secretary, you are there for what? If this is your application of your mind, then you don't know anything. Do you know English? Do you understand our order? This is just a bureaucratic attempt to delay ", a visibly upset Justice Shah observed.
The Solicitor General then intervened to submit that there are some genuine concerns about fake claims being made.
"We never asked you to appoint a scrutiny committee. We cannot accept the amended one also. It will take one year for getting the certificate from the scrutiny committee? It says come with the hospital certificate? Which hospital is giving the certificate?", Justice Shah continued.
"Mr. Mehta, what does he mean by saying that it goes to the Chief Minister? For what purpose is here there?", Justice Shah asked.
"My Lords, he was answering your lordships' query that the final authority for signature is the chief minister", the SG replied.
Mr Mehta we are telling you this is nothing but a bureaucratic approach on how to delay. To mess up the matter. Atleast 10,000 people have died according to your own data. Where is the question of doubting?", Justice Shah continued.
"Just because false claims are made, it does not mean that genuine persons will have to wait", Justice Nagarathna added.
"Death Certificate is issued by the Department itself, how can it be forged?", Justice Nagarathna further asked.
"Don't tell us that false certificates will be there. You don't know the persons who have suffered", Justice Shah added.
"Death Certificates are not forged but false RTPCR tests can be done", the SG submitted.
Towards the end of the proceedings, the Solicitor General submitted that the notification was recorded in an "idiotic" manner, and undertook that a modified resolution will be passed.
"I will sit with the responsible officers and take a call on the same. Let me examine this", the SG submitted and requested that the matter be posted on next Monday.
The bench also interacted with Pankaj Kumar, the Chief Secretary.
"Mr.Pankaj Kumar, you are a seasoned officer. You look into this why this issue is happening", Justice Shah told him. "Ask your officers to act as a bridge. Do not become adversarial", Justice Shah added.
Justice Shah also sought to know how many persons out of the 10,000 COVID deaths got compensation.
"Atleast 10,000 persons should get it. Has anyone gotten it yet? Otherwise next time we will appoint Legal Service Authority Members as Ombudsman like we did during 2001 Gujarat Earthquake for disbursement of compensation", Justice Shah said.
The bench also directed the Gujarat Government to disburse in the meantime the ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 at least with respect to those COVID deaths whose particulars are with the government portal.
The bench also called upon the Union of India to get the data from the states regarding the distribution of the ex-gratia for COVID deaths and the setting up of grievance redressal committees. The matter will be next heard on November 29.
Case Title: Gaurav Kumar Bansal v Union of India| Miscellaneous Application No. 1805/2021 in W.P.(C) No. 539/2021
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