The Supreme Court on Monday slammed the Gujarat government for deviating from its approved process and instead constituting a scrutiny committee for the disbursal of ex-gratia compensation to families of those who succumbed to Covid-19. The top court also asked the Centre to bring on record data from various state governments in connection with ex-gratia distribution for Covid deaths and also provide information on setting up of grievance redressal committees.
The Supreme Court in its October 4 judgement, had approved Rs 50,000 ex-gratia for the kin of Covid victims, which was recommended by the National Disaster Management Authority. The order was passed on the plea of advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat Government, submitted before a bench comprising justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna that an amended resolution has been issued following the apex court’s direction. On November 18, the top court observed the scrutiny committee seems to be an attempt to overreach its directions.
Mehta emphasized that even the amended resolution needs some tweaking. The bench shot back, “Who passed the first notification? Someone should take responsibility?” Mehta replied he takes the responsibility of it. However, the bench said why should he take the responsibility, rather the officer concerned must be held responsible.
At this juncture of the hearing, Mehta informed the bench that the additional chief secretary has joined the virtual hearing. The bench queried the secretary, “Who drafted this? Who approved this? Whose brain child is it?” He responded that the resolution was drafted in the department, and finally the competent authority gave the approval. The bench asked a pointed query, “Who is the competent authority?”
He submitted that the competent authority is the chief minister. The bench said: “Your chief minister does not know anything? Mr Secretary, you are there for what? If this is your application of your mind…”. It further added that it is just a bureaucratic attempt to delay and mess up the matter.
Mehta cited some fake claims in connection with the compensation. However, the bench seemed unrelenting and continued to slam the Gujarat government. The bench said, “It will take one year to get the certificate from the scrutiny committee?
Mehta clarified that the additional secretary was answering the bench’s query that final authority for signature is the chief minister. The bench observed that if there were fake claims, it cannot be an obstacle for genuine people. Mehta assured the top court that its concerns will be addressed and the resolution will be modified, and urged the court to list the matter for next Monday.
The bench also sought details on compensation for Covid deaths in Gujarat. The top court has fixed the matter for further hearing on November 29.