There should not be a situation, wherein the family members of the frontline service providers who succumb to Covid-19, are compelled to run from pillar to post for compensation, the Bombay High Court told the Maharashtra government on Friday. Accordingly, the HC ordered the state to file a fresh affidavit specifying the category of public servants and health workers, who would be entitled to insurance cover under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang Kotwal issued the directive after noting that the state government resolution (GR), providing insurance cover and ex gratia compensation to frontline workers who die while fighting the novel Covid 19, was 'vague'.
"The GR issued by you (state) is too vague. It does not specify what category or class of public health workers, civil and police personnel would be entitled to the insurance cover," CJ Datta pointed out to advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who represented the state.
The judges further told the state that there could not be ambiguity on such an 'important' decision and that the government must be precise on this issue.
"We do not want a situation wherein, after the unfortunate demise of a frontline worker due to Covid-19, his or her family members are running from pillar to post, just to get a clarification of this GR. You must specify what class of workers will be covered by this insurance plan," CJ Datta observed.
The judges accordingly ordered the state to file a fresh affidavit, as the GR in question did not specifically indicate who would be entitled to the Rs 50 lakh insurance cover.
The bench was dealing with a criminal public interest litigation (CRPIL) filed by journalist-turned-activist Ketan Tirodkar, seeking a directive to the state as well as the Union government, to declare cops who died while fighting the Covid 19 virus as martyrs.
During the course of the hearing, Advocate General Kumbhakoni told the judges there was no law for providing titles such as "martyr or shaheed."
"There is no statute to declare policemen, armed forces or even the BSF personnel, dying in action, as martyrs or shaheed. We are giving monetary help to the kin of a deceased officer," AG Kumbhakoni told the judges, adding, "If such a tag is given to deceased cops who succumbed to Covid-19, then similar titles will have to be given to even doctors dying of the deadly virus."
The AG further told the bench that the state has decided to extend the Rs 50 lakh insurance cover to its police force, which is one of the frontliners in the fight against the virus. "Apart from this, the state will be giving Rs 50 lakh as an ex gratia amount to the families of such officers. We have also decided to allow their family members to live in the service quarters till the date the cop would have retired, had he lived," Kumbhakoni submitted.
The judges have posted the matter for further hearing till August 5.
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