New Delhi, Aug 4 | The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and state governments to ensure timely pensions to the elderly, besides ensuring availability of sanitisers, masks and PPE kits to them, wherever required, during the coronavirus pandemic.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justice R. Subhash Reddy said the requests from the elderly should be immediately attended to, and emphasised that old-age pension should be disbursed in a timely manner.
“We, in this application, which is specially confined to the Covid-19 crisis, direct that all old aged people who are eligible for pension should be regularly paid pension and those identified older people should be provided necessary medicines, masks, sanitisers and other essential goods by respective states,” said the bench.
The top court asked the Centre to ensure that all Covid-19 safety precautions are followed and caregivers in old-age homes were well equipped with masks, PPE kits, and sanitisers.
“Further, as and when any individual request is made, the same shall be attended to by the administration with all promptness. The caregivers of those old-age homes should be provided personal protection and appropriate sanitisation should also be undertaken in the old-age homes,” added the bench.
The apex court directions came on a petition filed by Congress’ former Rajya Sabha member and senior advocate Ashwani Kumar, who argued that the older people have already been identified since most of them are getting pension from the states under the different schemes.
“He (petitioner) submits that the older people, who are living alone, are the worst sufferers and they are not able to get medicines, masks, sanitisers and other essential goods. The caregivers of these people are also not equipped with personal protection equipment and are also untrained,” the top court noted.
The top court noted that senior citizens living alone, especially during the pandemic, need to be assured that they would receive timely help if they were to make a request for it. “We only observe that the elderly people should be given priority in the admission in the government hospitals looking at their vulnerability for Covid-19. In event of any complaint made by the elderly people, the hospital administration concerned shall take immediate steps to remedy their grievances,” the top court said.
The bench said the state governments should also ensure that they respond promptly on issues/problems faced by the elderly living alone. “Let all the states may file their reply affidavit to the averments made in the application within four weeks,” said the court.
Earlier, the apex court had taken suo motu cognisance on issues connected with the spread of coronavirus infections in prisons and childcare institutions.