The Delhi High Court said on Monday the decision of the city government’s Group of Ministers to keep on hold the case of the family of a police constable, who died due to Covid-19 while performing his duties, for a Rs 1 crore compensation is “not tenable”.
The high court said the reports of police officials and the tweets of the Delhi chief minister and the lieutenant governor at the relevant time leaves no doubt that the constable, who was only 28 years old, passed away during Covid-19 duties.
“.... Thus, the decision to keep on hold or seek clarification would prima facie not be tenable. Let the matter be placed before the group of ministers and decision be taken within next date of hearing,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said, while fixing the matter for March 2.
The petitioner’s husband passed away on May 5, 2020 when she was expecting a child. The deceased, a young Delhi Police constable, was posted at Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital to ensure adherence to Covid-19 lockdown measures.
In December 2022, the high court had asked the authorities to take a decision on payment of Rs 1 crore compensation to the family of the constable who died due to Covid-19 and said the city government ought not to resile from the clear announcement made for ex-gratia payment.
As per the previous order, the matter was to be put before the group of ministers. During the hearing on Monday, Delhi government standing council Santosh Kumar Tripathi placed on record the minutes of meeting which recorded that the meeting of group of ministers took place on January 13.
As per the minutes, the case of the petitioner was kept on hold awaiting clarification from Delhi Police. The high court said, “Perusal of the reports in fact leave no doubt in the eyes of the court that the petitioner’s husband passed away due to Covid-19 and as per the prevalent procedure, no post morterm was being conducted with respect to Covid-19 patients. However, the report of the laboratory is clearly mentioned in the two reports.”
The high court, which was dealing with a petition by the wife of the deceased, had earlier said there was a “clear communication” by the authorities as well as press clippings which left no doubt that an ex gratia amount of Rs 1 crore was announced for the deceased's family by the Delhi government.
The petitioner has said the orders issued by the Delhi government during the pandemic required Delhi Police personnel to be posted for Covid-19 duty across the city and therefore it cannot be argued by the respondents that the deceased was not on Covid-19 duty.
In the petition, the deceased constable’s wife has submitted that she ran from pillar to post to secure the compensation promised by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet on May 7, 2020 after the death of her husband who was the family's sole breadwinner.
The plea referred to Kejriwal’s tweet stating, “Amitji (the constable) did not care for his life and kept serving us Delhi people. He got infected with corona and passed away. I pay homage to him on behalf of all the Delhites. His family shall be given an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore.”
The woman has said her husband was the first person from the police force to succumb to Covid-19 and that she was pregnant at the time of his death and has two children to look after.