High Court seeks Delhi Govt’s response in PIL to release Ex-Gratia compensation for families of cops who died on Covid-19 duty

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PIL was filed seeking release of Rs. 1 crore ex-gratia compensation promised by the Delhi government to families of cops who died one duty during Covid-19 pandemic.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought response from the Delhi Government in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking direction to release ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 1 crore to families of police officers who died on duty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad posted the PIL for hearing on May 19.

The PIL relied on the Delhi Government’s cabinet decision dated May 13, 2020, wherein the Delhi Government announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 1 crore to the families of people who died due to Covid-19 duty while deployed by the Delhi Government.

The Delhi Government’s cabinet decision stated, “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”.

According to the petition, after filing various RTI applications, it was revealed that 79 officers of the Delhi Police died on Covid-19 duty and Delhi Govt had not released the ex-gratia compensation to most of the families.

A reference was also made to a tweet posted by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on April 1, 2020, claiming that the government will provide Rs. 1 crore to the families of individuals who served COVID-19 patients as a token of appreciation for their service.

Appearing on behalf of the Delhi government, Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi told the court that 75 percent of requests for ex-gratia payments had already been granted and that individual petitions seeking similar relief had also been filed. He stated, however, that a status report would be filed on the subject.

The PIL submitted 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. 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.

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.”

Case Title: Hinu Mahajan & Ors. vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Ors.