MUMBAI: The Centre told the Bombay high court on Friday the Rs 50 lakh insurance for coronavirus warriors under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna is applicable only to private doctors who were requisitioned for Covid-19 duties and died while performing them.
It was responding to a petition by Koparkhairane resident Kiran Surgade. On March 31, her husband, Dr Bhaskar Surgade, had received a notice from Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation to open his clinic to treat patients and was warned of prosecution if he did not. He then opened his clinic at Turbhe and even treated Covid patients. He contracted the infection and died on June 10. On September 7, New India Assurance Company rejected the wife’s claim for Rs 50 lakh compensation under the Yojna, saying he did not serve in an hospital designated to treat only Covid-19 patients and was a private doctor.
A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla was informed by NMMC’s advocate Sandeep Marne that Dr Surgade was not requisitioned for Covid duty. The Centre’s advocate Sandesh Patil said the policy covers a doctor who is requisitioned for Covid duty below the age of 55 years. “He was 56 years old. It is not applicable at all,” said Patil, adding there is no pleading that Dr Surgade had been requisitioned by a hospital and contracted Covid-19 there.
Surgade’s advocate Ajit Karvande said the scheme does not differentiate between a public and a private doctor.
“It is an afterthought that I am a private doctor,” he added.
The judges said it will ultimately be an issue of interpretation. “On humanity grounds, if there are five or 10 such doctors after they opened the dispensary, can we do something for them?” asked Justice Kathawalla. Patil though said, “There will be thousands of them all over India.” When asked for the numbers, Patil replied that insurance companies which receive claims will have the statistics. “Ask them to give you data of those who opened their dispensaries, treated patients and thereafter passed away due to Covid-19,’’ said Justice Kathawalla.
Patil pointed out that insurance companies will have data of only those doctors who were requisitioned as per the policy. The judges then asked him to put the Centre’s reply on an affidavit and adjourned the hearing to Wednesday.