The Central government has told the Supreme Court that all deaths with a diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of co-morbidities, are to be classified as deaths due to COVID-19 (Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Union of India)..Death certificates can avoid COVID-19 as a cause only if there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be attributed to COVID-19, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told the top court. ."All deaths with a diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of co-morbidities, are to be classified as deaths due to COVID-19. The only exception could be where there is a clear alternative cause of death, that cannot be attributed to COVID-19 (e.g. accidental trauma, poisoning, acute myocardial infarction, etc), where COVID-19 is an incidental finding," the affidavit filed by MHA said. MHA further submitted that States/UTs may continue using their State-specific death audit proforma, provided it broadly captures the parameters as the indicative proforma..MHA was responding to a plea seeking directions to the Central and states to provide ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh to the family members of those who have succumbed to the side effects or post COVID-19 diseases, including mucormycosis.The petition by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal had referred to Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, which said that national authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include ex-gratia assistance.During an earlier hearing the Court had questioned the Central government on death certificates avoiding the real cause of death as COVID in some cases and had asked the government whether a uniform policy could be worked out in this regard. ."Is there a uniform policy on death certificates? As there are many situations where reason for death is not given as COVID. States say they follow ICMR guidelines, produce the guidelines about the death certificates. If benefit is to be given to COVID deaths, then reasons like lung problem etc is given (on the death certificates)...So people have to go from one office to another. What is the uniform policy in this regard," the Court had asked. .Compensation for COVID-19 victims: Is there a uniform policy for issuing death certificates? Supreme Court seeks reply from Centre.Senior Advocate SB Upadhyay, arguing for the petitioner seeking ex gratia payment for COVID deaths had submitted that a certificate needs to be issued so that it can be established that the death is due to COVID-19. He had also pointed out that for COVID-19 deaths, bodies are being taken from the mortuary to the cremation ground directly without mentioning the actual reason in death certificates..The MHA in its affidavit stated that question of issuance of death certificates, the registration of birth and death is done under the provisions of Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (RBD Act)..Under Section 10 of the RBD Act, the information related to cause of death is filled-up by the medical practitioner attending to the deceased at the time of terminal illness.This cause of death certificate is sent to the Registrar along with death reporting form on the basis of which, the Registrar makes necessary entries related to cause of death in the register of death, at the time of registration of death event.However, under Section 17 of the RBD Act, ‘no extract relating to any death, issued to any person, shall disclose the particulars regarding the cause of death as entered in the register’. Therefore, the cause of death cannot be disclosed by the Registrar to any person."Hence, the extract/certificate of death does not include any information related to the cause of death of an individual, it is therefore most respectfully stated that the death certificate does not show the cause of the death of any individual," the MHA clarified. .The MHA in the affidavit also said that an ex gratia payment of Rs. 4 lakh to kin of each COVID-19 deceased would not be possible as "resources of the government have limits" and entire amount of State Disaster Relief Fund will end up being utilised for such payments, if such payments are made.Read more about that here.