Mumbai: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to revisit its decision of not including death by suicide as COVID-19 death even if COVID-19 is an accompanying condition.
The top court was considering the fresh guidelines issued by the Union government to simplify the process of issuance of death certificates, as per the directions in the judgment delivered on June 30.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna asked the central government to reconsider its decision to exclude those who succumbed to COVID-19 after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Exclude compensation of 19 victims. The court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that it prima facie did not agree with the exclusion of such persons from the purview of compensation.
The bench observed that exclusion of suicides where COVID-19 was a co-occurrence situation cannot be prima facie accepted under the guidelines. “You have to reconsider this,” the top court said.
Advocate Gaurav Bansal submitted that the Central Government’s decision to exclude suicide from COVID-19 deaths, even if COVID-19 is a simultaneous condition, is irrational and arbitrary.
“Recently National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (herein after referred as NIMHANS) also issued a research study titled as Suicide in the context of COVID-19 diagnosis in India: Insights and implications from online print media reports. The petitioner has learnt from the said NIMHANS research study that COVID19 related suicide rates are well above the National Average Suicide Rate and as such there is an urgent need to address the same,” Bansal said in an affidavit.
The central government had earlier told the top court that the health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have come out with guidelines for issuing “official documents” for deaths related to COVID-19.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the central government had also submitted that the office of the Registrar General of India had issued a circular on September 3 to provide medical certificate of the cause of death to the next of kin of the deceased.
The guidelines state that deaths due to poisoning, suicide, homicide and accidental deaths will not be treated as COVID-19 deaths, even if there are COVID-19 co-occurring conditions.
“COVID-19 cases which are not resolved and have died either in hospital settings or at home, and where a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) in Form 4 and 4 A has been issued to the registering authority as required under Section 10 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969, will be treated as a COVID-19 death,” according to the guidelines.