In a landmark decision, the Delhi High Court has directed the Union Government, Director General of Health Services, and Medical Superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital to release Rs. 50 lakhs in favor of the widow of a security guard who tragically lost his life on duty during the COVID-19 pandemic while being deployed in the government hospital. The ruling has far-reaching implications for those who lost their lives while serving on the front lines during the pandemic and sets a precedent for providing support to their families.
The deceased security guard had been deployed at SafdarjungHospital, one of the primary healthcare institutions in the capital city, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As the country grappled with the unprecedented crisis, security personnel and paramedical staff were at the forefront of the battle against the virus, ensuring the safety of hospitals and guiding patients to the correct centers. They played an essential role in controlling the pandemic and ensuring the smooth functioning of healthcare facilities.
The widow of the security guard approached the Delhi High Court, seeking compensation under the “Pradhan Mantri GaribKalyan Package: Insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19” announced by the Union Government. This scheme was introduced as a measure to provide relief to the families of individuals who lost their lives while working on the front lines, protecting the health and well-being of thousands affected by the pandemic.
The court firmly established the widow’s entitlement to the benefits of this scheme. In a poignant judgment, Justice Subramonium Prasad stated that it was not appropriate for the authorities to adopt a “narrow and pedantic stand” by excluding the deceased security guard from the scheme simply because he was not directly involved in the care of COVID-19 patients.
The court stressed that the scheme’s spirit was to extend immediate relief to the families of those who had bravely served in the battle against COVID-19 and had sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. During the pandemic, security guards and paramedical staff not only ensured the safety of the hospitals but also played a pivotal role in guiding patients to the appropriate medical facilities. Therefore, the court concluded that the security guards who were posted at various locations were indeed in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and their families.
The case also highlighted a shift in the Delhi Government’s stance regarding its own scheme for granting ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 1 crore. Initially, the government had extended the scheme’s scope to include individuals deployed by the government itself. However, the court found it inappropriate to extend this benefit through a writ in this case since the deceased security guard was not employed by the Delhi Government.
Nevertheless, the Delhi Government had passed a circular on July 27, 2020, allowing the Administrative Departments to submit the names of those who had contracted COVID-19 during the discharge of their duties for the payment of Rs. 1 crore in ex-gratia compensation. In line with this circular, the court directed the Medical Superintendent of SafdarjungHospital to provide the necessary documents related to the deceased security guard to the Delhi Government for further examination.
The court further urged the Delhi Government to scrutinize the case of the deceased security guard sympathetically. Recognizing the vital role played by security personnel and paramedical staff during the pandemic, the court emphasized that they had been in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and had put their lives at risk to protect the public.
In a broader context, the Delhi High Court’s decision is a significant step toward recognizing the sacrifices made by frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting the families of those who lost their lives while serving the nation during this public health crisis.
The ruling underlines the principle that such schemes should be interpreted liberally, keeping in mind the enormous contribution of security guards, paramedical staff, and other essential workers during the pandemic. By securing compensation for the widow of the security guard, the court has set a precedent for future cases, ensuring that the families of COVID-19 frontline workers receive the support and recognition they rightfully deserve.
As the court noted, security guards and paramedical staff played a pivotal role not only in maintaining the security of hospitals but also in guiding patients through the turbulent times of the pandemic. These individuals were unsung heroes in the battle against the virus, and their sacrifice and dedication should not go unnoticed.
This landmark judgment serves as a testament to the court’s commitment to justice and compassion, setting a significant precedent for providing compensation and support to the families of frontline workers who lost their lives during the pandemic. It is a reaffirmation of the principle that no effort or sacrifice should go unappreciated when serving humanity during a crisis.
As this decision unfolds, it stands as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for comprehensive support systems for those who put their lives on the line to protect others.