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Irrespective of comorbidities, all the deaths after diagnosis of COVID-19 should be classified as deaths due to COVID-19: Central govt to Supreme Court

The Central government told the Supreme Court that all the deaths after diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of comorbidities should be classified as deaths due to COVID-19.

By: Sunayna Jain, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal.

In the case of Gaurav Kumar Bansal V. Union of India, the Central government has informed the Supreme Court that all deaths with a diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of comorbidities, are to be classified as deaths due to COVID-19.

The Ministry of Home Affairs told the Supreme Court that Death certificates can avoid COVID-19 as a cause only if there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be categorized to COVID-19.

The affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated “All deaths with a diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of co-morbidities, are to be classified as deaths due to COVID-19. The only exception could be where there is a clear alternative cause of death, that cannot be attributed to COVID-19 (e.g. accidental trauma, poisoning, acute myocardial infarction, etc), where COVID-19 is an incidental finding.”

A petition was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court for providing ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh to the family members of those who have died to COVID-19 or its side effects, or post COVID-19 diseases, including mucormycosis.

The petitioners, advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal, have referred to Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, which said that national authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include ex-gratia assistance.

Senior Advoacte SB Upadhyay, representing the petitioners, had submitted that a certificate needs to be issued so that it can be established that the death is due to COVID-19.

During an earlier hearing on the present matter, the Court had questioned the Central government on whether there is a uniform policy on death certificates because in some cases the real cause of death as COVID is not mentioned.

The MHA has also stated in its affidavit that the question of issuance of death certificates, the registration of birth and death is done under the provisions of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969.

And according to  Section 10 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, the information concerning the cause of death is filled-up by the medical practitioner attending to the deceased at the time of terminal illness, and the death certificate is sent to the Registrar where he registers the information related to the death event. Also, the cause of death cannot be disclosed by the Registrar to any person.

The MHA clarified “Hence, the extract/certificate of death does not include any information related to the cause of death of an individual, it is therefore most respectfully stated that the death certificate does not show the cause of the death of any individual.” 

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the affidavit has also stated that an ex gratia payment of Rs. 4 lakh to kin of each COVID-19 deceased would not be possible as “resources of the government have limits” and if such ex -gratia amounts are allowed then the entire amount of State Disaster Relief Fund will end up being utilized for making such payments. 

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