SC does not interfere with Bombay HC interim order allowing burials of Covid-19 victims in city

The Court refused to entertain the matter and asked the HC to decide the case within 2 weeks

COVID 19Image

A persons last rites are a deeply personal matter, and given how the World Health Organisation (WHO) has itself clarified that cremations and burials are both safe ways to dispose off remains of Covid-19 infected people, any effort to force people from one community to dispose off bodies in a manner that is not in accordance with their religious beliefs reeks of a communal agenda. In a special leave petition, seeking leave to appeal against High Court order refusing to stay burials of dead bodies in Mumbai, the Supreme Court has issued directions to the Bombay High Court to decide the matter within 2 weeks. The Supreme Court noted that the order was given by the High Court at an interim stage and hence deemed it appropriate to send the petitioners back to the High Court for final disposal of the case.

The petition in Supreme Court was filed by a Mumbai resident Pradeep Gandhy as one of the cemeteries is near his residence raising concern that the infection could spread through the infected dead bodies. He contended that the original petition, which is pending before the Bombay High Court, had challenged the permission given by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to use certain cemeteries for burials and the interim order has rendered the plea infructuous.

He had further contended that religious rights must not be prioritised over public health. An intervention application was also filed by Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind claiming that burial of dead bodies was inherent and essential to the practice of Islam as well as Christianity and denying this would go against the right to practice one’s religion under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The application also contended that the petition was filed based on unfounded apprehensions which lacked scientific backing and hence should be dismissed.

The bench comprising Justices RF Nariman and Indira Banerjee observed that a proper hearing was warranted after calling for a report from the state government as well as the municipal body, thus maintaining status quo until the matter is finally decided by the high court. The BMC had initially issued a circular stating that if a Covid-19 infected dead body was to be buried, it would have to be buried outside Mumbai. Following uproar from minorities, it revised the circular stating that burials can be done in Mumbai but in larger burial ground to avoid the spread of infection to nearby residents. However, even this is bizarre given how the virus cannot infect anyone if the body is buried underground!

The Central government, in the advisories issued by it from time to time, had also issued a manual on Dead body management which had allowed both Cremation and burials as way of disposing remains of people who died due to Covid-19. This manual was made basis the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Covid-19 deaths: Ash to ash, dust to dust
Do the dead have rights in India?



Related Articles