Supreme Court orders Rajasthan government to decide on pending claims in 2 weeks and asks SLSA to review rejected claims

On Friday, a division bench of the Supreme Court asked the government of Rajasthan the reason why it had not completed the disbursement process as a courtesy payments to children orphaned by COVID-19 and families of victims of the pandemic virus, including those who died by suicide within 30 days of contracting it. Earlier this month, the high court arrested the state government on its “unsatisfactory” affidavit and ordered it to make the payments without delay, in line with previous court orders.

On Friday, a Bench made up of Judges Mr. Shah and Sudhanshu Dhulia received a compliance status update from the state government. The Representative Counsel informed the Court that of the 213 “COVID orphans” in the state whose details were uploaded to the Bal Swaraj COVID-Care portal, 191 had already received as a courtesy Payments –

“We have filed an affidavit. Meetings are being held at the highest level. There are two issues. One issue is children orphaned due to COVID. Out of 213, we have paid 191. We are also taking action on this. As for the remaining 22. As for 718, they are general orphans…not related to COVID. Then we will have to develop a policy that all orphans will be covered by the state as parens patriae. That will require a different policy In regards to COVID orphans, out of 213, we paid 191.”

Regarding the children whose payments had not yet been processed, the lawyer clarified –

“As for the remaining 22, we are making every effort. Only yesterday the learned chief secretary took a meeting. We are trying to identify the remaining children. Some people are not currently traceable. We are trying to pay them payments.”

The court was also told that the families of 19,914 victims who lost their lives to the virus, had been compensated, out of “a penalty of 20,671”. Judge Shah asked how many applications had been rejected. The lawyer replied –

“Dismissed is 1773, and we’ve shared it with the National Legal Services Authority. Let NALSA have the oversight powers. If they recommend no, this is wrongfully dismissed, we’ll pay. It’s not du all contradictory. We want to come and help.”

After being reminded by the bench of the time-limited nature of the activity, the lawyer explained –

“There are some payments pending at the citizen level… 194 are pending at the office level. We will expedite that in a week. The citizens when they come back with their…we still have to process…There’s no waiting.”

Judge Shah asked –

“You said 757 pending payment?”

The lawyer replied –

“There are various difficulties on the ground. Payment pending due to difficulties in disbursing the amount to the exact people. Sometimes identification becomes a problem, sometimes the person is not traceable. We are trying our best.”

Judge Shah insisted further –

“Once it’s sanctioned, you just have to pay, right?”

The lawyer provided –

“No, the payment also requires many other formalities. It is not a direct transfer either…”

Judge Shah sharply reprimanded –

“We said direct transfer.”

The lawyer hastily added –

“Opening bank accounts involves some formalities…”

Judge Shah said –

“You don’t have to open any bank accounts, just transfer the money to existing accounts.”

The lawyer explained –

“If they don’t give details, we have to ask them to open an account and then transfer. We have nothing against these 757 people. The state is working overnight to get payments to these people . “

Unconvinced, Judge Shah said he would ask the member secretary of the National Legal Services Authority to review the 1,773 rejected applications. The solicitor, deferring to the wisdom of the statutory body, said –

“Whatever question he recommends, we will pay immediately. And any suggestion from him, if it speeds up the process, we will.”

Judge Dhulia further requested –

“Also, what is the citizen level?

The lawyer said –

“The citizen level means people who have submitted a candidacy. We sometimes ask questions of those candidates.”

Judge Shah warned –

“You decide based on the requests, lawyer. Our order is very clear. You don’t ask unnecessary questions. They only have one thing to say. That a person has died due to COVID-19. Nothing more than that. No further requests.”

The lawyer quickly agreed to “accelerate these payments”.

It was alleged by another lawyer that there were “various discrepancies” regarding the number of COVID deaths due to suicide. Expressing his disbelief, the lawyer said –

“Regarding suicide deaths, there are 9000 suicide deaths at the district level. 9077 applications received with 551 pending. 8047 sanctioned. If there are applications, there are deaths. So that means that there have been 8047 deaths by suicide. . How is that possible?”

The lawyer argued vehemently –

“My humble submission is that NALSA submit a report to this court. Because there are various discrepancies with respect to this matter…There are also other states where such discrepancies exist. Because this Court had ordered that all the state legal departments The authorities… An order can be issued that if there’s a difference, they can go to this court, but what happens is they’re powerless.

Judge Shah ordered –

“You come with a suitable application. We will study.”

When the lawyer protested, Judge Shah promised –

“We’ll take it up with the National Legal Services Authority and the State Legal Services Authorities. I’ll take it up. We’ll look into it.”

The Court ordered the state government to provide details of the rejected applications to the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority for reconsideration by the member secretary. The state government has also been ordered to make due payments without further delay. Judge Shah orally delivered the order as follows –

“In another affidavit filed by the State of Rajasthan, it is pointed out that out of 718 applications received regarding orphaned children which are uploaded on the website, on the Bal Swaraj portal, 213 applications relate to orphaned children who became orphans due COVID-19 It is specified that out of the 213 requests, 191 children were paid ex gratia.

It is further pointed out in the affidavit that out of a total of 24,421 compensation claims received due to death due to COVID-19, 1,773 claims are denied and 757 claims are pending payment. It is further reported that 1783 applications are pending at the citizen level. And 194 are pending at the office level. It is reported that with regard to applications rejected.

It is further stated in the affidavit that with respect to deaths by suicide, at the district level, 9077 applications have been received, of which 511 applications are pending, 8047 applications are sanctioned and 479 applications are denied.

We request the Nodal/State Agency of Rajasthan to provide full details of rejected claims with respect to COVID-19 deaths, even suicide deaths caused by COVID-19. The above-mentioned information must be provided to the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority within 2 weeks from today. Upon receipt, the RSLSA Member Secretary is responsible for reviewing all rejected applications and making an appropriate decision in consultation with the State Government/State authorities and affected applicants within four weeks. . Regardless of the claims decided in favor of the claimants, the state government is obligated to make payment within two weeks without fail.

With regard to pending applications including applications pending payment, the State of Rajasthan is requested to decide/finalize all pending applications within two weeks from today and to carry out payments to claimants, taking into account the observations we have made. in our previous orders.

With respect to compensation to be paid to orphaned children, the state is required to make payment to the remaining claimants whose parents died due to COVID-19. Payment must be made within two weeks from today.

With this, the present claim is eliminated.”

The bench heard a miscellaneous claim in the motion in short titled Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Indian Union. Last year, lawyer Gaurav Bansal, appearing as a party in person, moved the Supreme Court in the public interest, begging for payment of as a courtesy monetary compensation to the families of deceased persons who lost their lives due to COVID-19. Marking this with another similar written request, the court had ordered as a courtesy assistance to be granted “in the event of death” to family members must be paid from the National Disaster Response Fund.

Case title

Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Union of India & Ors. [MA No. 1417/2022 in WP (C) No. 539/2021]

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