‘Why not sensitive to the cause’, SC to AP on failure to disburse Covid compensation (2nd Lead)

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed Andhra Pradesh for delaying paying compensation of Rs 50,000 to the families of those who succumbed to Covid-19, and asked the Chief Secretary and state’s counsel “why they are not sensitive to the cause”.

The Chief Secretary of Bihar also appeared personally in the matter, after the top court refused to accept the state’s figure of Covid deaths.

Taking exception to Andhra Pradesh’s record, a bench of Justices M.R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said: “Why you only work when the court directs you to work. Why are you not sensitive to the cause?”

During the pre-lunch hearing, the top court had sought the personal presence of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary to explain the delay in compensating families who have lost their loved ones to the viral infection.

“Every time we have to tell you… told 10 times already to Andhra Pradesh”, said Justice Shah.

As the Chief Secretary apologised to the court, the bench told him that the record maintained by the state government in connection with Covid deaths is faulty.

Senior advocate R. Basant, representing the state government, urged the court to give seven days to the government to rectify the errors. The court was informed that the state has received over 40,000 applications for Covid compensation and it has been found that over 34,000 applicants are eligible for the compensation. However, the state government has registered 14,471 deaths so far.

As the bench queried whether the authorities concerned have cross-checked that the name of the claimant, for deaths recorded so far, appear on the list of total claim applications received, the Chief Secretary submitted that all the errors will be removed from the Covid deaths data.

“Our only anxiety is that the money should reach the people. Please reach out to the people whose applications have been rejected,” Justice Shah told the official.

During the pre-lunch hearing, the governments of Gujarat, and Maharashtra informed the court of the number of claims they had received, and the number approved and payments disbursed.

The Bihar Chief Secretary was also present during the hearing after the bench told the state’s counsel that it is not ready to accept that only 12,000 people have died due to Covid in the state. The bench noted that the Bihar government had reported 11,000 claims for compensation so far, which, when compared to other states’ applications, seem to be on the lower side. It said the state government should make more effort to reach the eligible people for Covid death compensation.

Concluding the hearing, the top court said it will pass a detailed order to state and district legal services by Thursday. The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing in the first week of February.

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