News By/Courtesy: Akanksha Dash | 23 May 2020 13:25pm IST


  • The court said every person has the right to decent burial
  • No scientific basis behind petitioner's plea
  • Court dismissed it imposing no costs

A petition filed by the residents of Bandra in Mumbai against the decision of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai in using cemeteries in the locality for the burial of COVID-19 victims was dismissed. This decision was given by a division bench of Bombay High Court comprising of the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde. They held that there exists no scientific data supporting the claims made by petitioner that the “virus is transmitted through burials and held that the Corporation had the authority to grant such permission and demarcate cemeteries accordingly.”
There is a right existing to make sure every person gets decent disposal of their body after their death, it is the right to a decent burial and forms part of Article 21. The Court upheld this right calling the petitioners “insensitive.”
"Right to a decent burial, commensurate with the dignity of the individual, is recognized as a facet of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. There is, thus, no reason as to why an individual who dies during this period of crisis because of suspected/confirmed COVID-19 infection would not be entitled to the facilities he/she would have otherwise been entitled to but for the crisis", the Court stated.
The Court observed that this is a case “fit for imposing exemplary costs” However, keeping in mind the fear of COVIS-19 spreading, no cost will be imposed. The court directed MCGM to ensure strict compliance of guidelines for the burial of bodies of Covid-19 victims.
The permission to bury bodies in the three kabristans had been granted by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on April 9. Subsequently on the 13th of April, the few of the residents of the area surrounding the kabristans started their protests against the burial of bodies in those cemetery grounds. The police had to lock the gates of the cemetery. The residents reasoned that there might be an outbreak of COVID-19 in the areas adjoining the cemeteries due to the burial of infected victims.
Following this, Pradeep Gandhy approached the HC for relief but was denied relief. This was on April 27. Subsequently, he appealed to the SC who directed the HC to decide on this petitioner’s plea within 2 weeks.
The plea was opposed by the Respondent MCGM by filing an affidavit stating that:
"It is well established and declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the Covid-19 virus is not air bound and hence transmission of the virus to other people staying in the vicinity of the burial ground is highly impossible. The transmission cannot happen unless people in the locality come in direct contact with the body brought for burial or cremation. Direct contact of people staying in the locality with a body is impossible, as it is wrapped in plastic by hospital staff before handing it over to relatives for the last rites."
Also, intervention applications were filed by the trustees of three masjids around the burial ground. The Kabristan Trustees opposed the plea stating that the petitioner could not prove his claims through any scientific evidence plus due process was being followed in disposing of such bodies.
The bench accepted the Respondent’s submission and the intervenors’ applications and dismissed the petition stating that there is no scientific evidence backing the claims and as long as the MCGM follows proper protocol in burying the bodies, no intervention is needed.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 23 May 2020 15:58pm IST

Tags : covid-19, burial, cemetery

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