Mumbai, Jul 31: The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit about the benefits extended to the kin of frontline health and administrative workers, who get infected or succumb to COVID- 19 in the line of duty.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang Kotwal was hearing two public interest litigations seeking that police officers, doctors and nurses, who die of COVID-19 after contracting the infection on duty, be given the title of “martyrs” by the state.
The petitioner’s lawyer Aparna Vhatkar told the court that the state must recognise the sacrifice made by such frontline workers and declare them as martyrs to pay them respect. The court initially asked why it must intervene in such matters.
“The executive can take this decision. Why should judiciary do it? State or the Union can apply its mind,” the bench noted, asking the Union government, also a party in the case, if any provision for granting such titles existed.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the Union government, however, told the court that the Centre did not have any legal powers to grant such a title to civilians. Other honours bestowed such as Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan were all awards and not mere titles, he said.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state, told the court that the Maharashtra government had already issued a resolution stating that the kin of doctors or policemen, who die of COVID-19, would be given Rs 50 lakh.
The Advocate General also informed the court that the state had also extended the benefit of the Centre’s Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, an insurance scheme, to several frontline workers. The state government had issued a resolution on April 11 stating that the said scheme would be extended to the state’s frontline workers.
The court, however, noted that the said GR did not clarify the benefits that will be granted to doctors and nurses specifically and directed the state to file an affidavit clarifying the same by August 4.