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Death on duty: Why not treat doctor & cop alike?

Death on duty: Why not treat doctor & cop alike?
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Police and doctors killed on duty should get equal compensation. Equity demands equality. It is the duty of the State to value each life equally. The...

Police and doctors killed on duty should get equal compensation. Equity demands equality. It is the duty of the State to value each life equally. The law mandates that if any employee dies during the course of employment, his family or legal representatives are entitled to compensation from the employer, whether private or government.

For injury or death of worker due to working conditions, the employer has to compensate the injured or the family of the deceased employee as per the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923. The Act says that if personal injury is caused to a worker by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer shall be liable to compensate.

There are plethora of judgments of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, holding that categories of ‘injury’ include ‘death’ and ‘accident’ meant and extended to ‘disease’ contacted at workplace. Being the largest employer, the State is expected to be benevolent to perform its duty to take care of its employee’s family, if he dies during course of his duty.

It is not clear whether the policy of the Delhi State covers a doctor’s family to get compensation for his death due to disease. Like a police officer, a doctor is also risking life by exposure to deadly diseases, which is no less than facing bullets. Police or doctor, both serve and sacrifice life for the State and thus need to be treated equally

The ex gratia paid by the governments to policemen killed during performance of their duty or Army men killed in war is, in fact, their legitimate right to get compensated. A pathetic appeal came from a bereaved mother. She lost her young son. Dr Dinesh Kumar Singh was Senior Resident (Anaesthesia) at Chacha Nehru Bala Chikitsalaya, who died on 3-3-2015 because of exposure to swine flu while on duty.

The family was not paid compensation. The Public Grievance Monitoring System (PGMS) has rejected her grievance petitions thrice. She filed RTI request with the PIO of CMO for reasons of rejection and copy of file-note-sheet.

The CMO transferred the application to offices of Health & Family Welfare (H&FW), Finance and Divisional Commissioner. The Finance department has sent it back to H&FW department. It is not known why the CMO transferred it to them, and why none gave any information.

The PIO of Health and Family Welfare, neither talked about his health nor about his family’s welfare, but strangely spoke of rules to deny information as usual. First appeal did not yield any information, hence the mother knocked on the doors of CIC.

In fact, the Delhi State government was kind enough to enhance compensation to Rs 1 crore for officers in uniform if killed on duty. In April 2016, Rs 1 crore was given to the kin of NIA officer Mohd Tazil Ahmed, who was killed by two assailants.

Same amount was given to the kin of Narottam Das, a CRPF Jawan killed in February 2016 in Maoist Attack in Bihar, and to the family of Constable Vinod Kumar killed in December 2013. The Delhi government also gave Rs 1 crore while the Union Government announced Rs 25 lakh to the family of NDMC Estate Officer M M Khan who was killed by some assailants.

On April 1, 2015, the Delhi government announced: “The policy will cover officers of the Delhi Police, personnel of the armed forces and paramilitary forces hailing from Delhi, personnel from other forces serving the Delhi government, civil defence and home guards.”

As per a media report, Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia stated: “If any of these personnel dies in the line of duty, the Delhi government will provide a compensation of Rs 1 crore to their families. This is to honour a life laid down in the service of the people.” This Cabinet decision made Delhi the State awarding the the highest compensation to the families of uniformed personnel killed while performing duties to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens.

The Election Commission rules from 2014 made following policy: I. An amount of Rs 10 lakh as the minimum amount to be paid to the next of kin of the official in the unfortunate event of death of the official while on election duty; II.

1f the death is unfortunately caused due to any violent acts of extremist or unsocial elements like, road mines, bomb blasts, armed attacks, etc. the amount of compensation would be Rs 20 lakh; and III. In the case of permanent disability, like loss of limb, eye sight, etc., a minimum ex gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh would be given to the official (which would be doubled in the case of such mishaps being caused by extremist or unsocial elements as aforesaid).

It is not clear whether the policy of the Delhi State covers a doctor’s family to get compensation for his death due to disease. Like a police officer, a doctor is also risking life by exposure to deadly diseases, which is no less than facing bullets. For any family, loss of doctor-son will be an irreparable damage. Either police or doctor, both serve and sacrifice life for state and thus need to be treated equally.

No policy can discriminate life of a doctor from that of soldier for purposes of compensation. Deadly disease like swine flu is as worse as a killing assailant. If there is no such security measure, it is difficult to give moral strength to young doctors to treat suffering citizens.

The State has a duty to form uniform policy and inform the people about it to provide compensation to the family for unforeseen death of employee during service. In this case, the young doctor’s family has right to know whether they are entitled to compensation; if so, why not pay Rs 1 crore as given to officer killed on duty? The State has to explain reasons for not treating a doctor on par with police.

In this case, the CMO has chosen to transfer the RTI request to three departments instead of informing the appellant about their policy or reasons for absence of policy. People legitimately expect a uniform policy from the CMO. Besides, appellant has a right to know why a family’s claim is rejected by a PGMS.

The PGMS (Public Grievance Monitoring System) of the Delhi government receives the grievance and registers it. An SMS alert and email will be sent to the applicant informing registration number. Applicant will get another SMS alert if grievance is disposed of, but email is not sent. The PGMS suffers two serious deficiencies: Given password does not work; and even if it works, the status of rejected will be revealed.

But the applicant does not receive reasons for rejection and he or she has no way to secure the reasons.
The RTI Act, 2005, Section 4(1)(c) makes it mandatory for the State to give reasons for such policy or absence of it. Under the Section 4(1)(d), it is the duty of the State to give reasons for rejecting the application for compensation.

As per the Section 19(8)(a)(i), the Commission requires the CMO to provide access to information of reasons for rejection of the grievance, and under (iv) to make necessary changes to its practice in relation to the maintenance, management of grievance status-related records to inform the applicant the reasons for rejection of application through email, and also publish the same on the portal, and make the process of access possible and easy through password and email, informing the appellant the reasons for rejection of application.

The CMO was directed to inform the policy, whether it uniformly applies to doctors suffering death on duty or explain reasons for discrimination, if any, and in this case, give reasons for rejecting the request of appellant. The CM and the Dy CM should consider a uniform policy for compensation.

The H&FW department was directed to furnish the file notes, correspondence/entire file relating to the request of the appellant for compensation, reasons for rejection, etc. They have to explain why penalty should not be imposed and why compensation should not be paid to the mother who was denied compensation and information about.

(Based on decision in CIC/SA/A/2016/000353, Anita Singh v. Health & Family Welfare Department, GNCTD, on 31st May 2016, link: http://rtiadmin.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SA_A_2016_000353_M_187035.pdf)

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