Delhi, India: On March 21, the Delhi High Court sought the Delhi Government’s response to a PIL seeking to release Rs 1 crore ex-gratia compensation to families of police officers who died on duty during the Covid-19 pandemic, Live Law reported.
The Delhi High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad listed the PIL for hearing on May 19. The PIL relies on the Delhi Government’s cabinet decision dated May 13, 2020, wherein the Delhi Government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore would be awarded to families of people who died due to Covid-19 duty while deployed for the Covid-19 pandemic by the Delhi Government.
The Delhi Government’s cabinet decision said, “The Council of Ministers considered the note of Minister (H&FW) and approved that any person including Doctor, Nurse, Paramedical Staff, Security/Sanitation staff of any other Govt. Officer/Official, including Police Office/Official, whether temporary or permanent employee or contractual, in Government or Private Sector, deployed for COVID-19 duties by Government of NCT of Delhi, if expires by contracting the disease during discharge of his/her duty, his/her family shall be paid an ex gratia amount of Rupees One Crore, posthumously.”
Furthermore, Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet was submitted to the Court wherein he claimed that Rs 1 crore would be given to those who served Covid-19 patients as the Delhi Government’s mark of respect.
Delhi Government’s counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi submitted that 75 per cent of applications seeking the ex-gratia amount had been entertained, and individual petitions seeking similar relief have been filed in court, Live Law reported.
However, the petitioners have argued that RTI applications revealed 79 Delhi Police officers died during Covid-19 duty, and the Delhi Government has not released the promised ex-gratia amount to most families to date. The PIL states, “That as per the reply of RTI dated 13.02.2021 the petitioner got to know that 15 families of police officials who died in covid while discharging their duties have applied for demanding the ex-gratia amount of 1 crore to GNCT and was shocked to know that out of 15 compensation request files, 12 files are already rejected by GNCT without assigning any reason and remaining 3 are pending,” Live Law reported.
The PIL submits that the Delhi Government, along with other respondents, are bound by the law of estoppel and ought to have not breached their promises publicly being a welfare state, Live Law reported. Otherwise, the same will affect the morale of the police force and will shake the faith of the public in constitutional/statutory authorities, the PIL added.
Earlier on December 14, 2022, Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Government to award the promised compensation to the widow of Delhi Police Constable Amit Kumar, who died due to Covid-19 on May 5, 2020. The Delhi Police Constable passed away while he was posted at Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital, Delhi, to ensure adherence to COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The Court observed, “The present case requires an empathetic consideration. It is not in doubt that the Petitioner’s husband – Sh. Amit Kumar had died during COVID-19 duty. The same is also confirmed by the office of the DCP (North-West), Ashok Vihar.”
The Court observed that “there is clear communication and messaging in the public domain via social media which leaves no manner of doubt that the ex gratia amount of Rs.1 Crore was announced for the Petitioner’s Husband. The press clipping to the same effect has been placed on record.”
The Court said that the Delhi Government “ought not to resile from the clear announcement made for ex-gratia payment. In view of the aforementioned facts and circumstances, the compensation due to the Petitioner can no longer be delayed.”