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COVID-19: SC expresses concerns against fake medical certificates to avail ex-gratia compensation

The Supreme Court on Monday warned against the misuse of its order to get ex-gratia compensation for COVID-19 death on the basis of fake medical certificate and observed that it would order an independent probe to catch those who indulged in such practice.

A bench headed by Justice MR Shah expressed serious concerns at fake certificates being issued by doctors to enable undeserving people to claim the ex-gratia compensation for COVID-19 deaths.

The apex court sought suggestion on a mechanism to curb fake COVID-19 death certificates, being issued to avail Rs. 50,000 ex gratia.

Our orders should not be allowed to be misused, said the bench while observing that some doctors are preparing fake certificates to justify COVID-19 deaths.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, mentioned the issue of fake COVID-19 certificates or fake claims and how the same can be curbed.

He suggested to the bench that there has to be a definite time limit for filing the application and availing the benefit of ex-gratia compensation by next of kin of those who have succumbed to the deadly COVID-19.

The Solicitor General submitted that a limitation period should now be prescribed as the process cannot go on indefinitely. “This court may direct that whoever applies gets the compensation, but there may be a direction that there should be a fixed date and it cannot be an endless proces,” Mehta added.

The bench also observed that the process of application cannot go on indefinitely.

“There must be some time limit, otherwise the process will go endlessly, even for 5-6 years,” said the apex court.

“Please suggest how can we curb the issue of fake certificates being issued by Doctors. It may take away someone’s real opportunity”, Justice Shah told senior Advocate R Basant who was appearing for the State of Kerala.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on March 14.

The apex court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer-cum-petitioner, Gaurav Kumar Bansal, seeking an ex-gratia compensation for those family members, who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, the top court had approved the Centre’s disaster management guidelines on payment of Rs 50,000 ex-gratia compensation to the next kin of those who died of Covid-19 and said the money should be disbursed within 30 days of applying.

On the previous hearing, the top court had directed all the states governments and Union Territories to appoint dedicated nodal officer, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, to coordinate with the member secretary of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) to facilitate payment of ex-gratia compensation to family members of COVID-19 victims.

It had said the nodal officer should ensure all eligible claimants apply for ex-gratia compensation.

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