Right to decent burial is a fundamental right of life –Madras HC.
On 20th April, 2020, Madras HC stated, “Right to Life includes the right to decent burial or cremation.” The Madras HC gave this statement to all those local residents who were refusing the burial of a neurosurgeon who died because of COVID-19.
With the approval of Chief justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, justices took up a suo motu PIL after the case took place.
The Case: The local residents had refused to allow the family of the neurosurgeon to perform the burial at Kilpauk cemetery and when the family took the corpse to do the funeral at burial ground of Velangudu, a mob appeared and prevented them to complete the procedure. The mob damaged the ambulance which carried the corpse of the doctor and physically harmed the public servants who came to stop the violence.*
The bench also mentioned that how unfortunate it is, that the person who had a noble profession was deprived his right to cemetery.
The bench also said that the procedural code have many provisions to deal with the unlawful assembly.
The people found guilty could be punished with an imprisonment which may be extended to one year or fine or both. The government had also requested the public to respect the doctors and those who’ve died.
The Health Ministry have given some guidelines to follow for the cremation of those who have died due to the Covid-19 virus effect. Which says that the body should be in the body bag and the authority must take care if the bag is decontaminated or not, and the autopsy of the body should be avoided. Also, the people who appear in the cremation should be 20 or less than the given no.
Right to decent burial and Bombay HC’s take
“Right to burial is recognised as a facet of the fundamental right to life given under article 21, and the right cannot be taken away from a person even in such a pandemic situation”, stated Bombay High court, on 21st may, 2020.
Some petitions were came to the high court which challenged the BMC which designated 20 grounds in the city for the burial of the people who died because of corona virus.
Chief Justice S S Shinde quashed the petition saying, “Right to a decent burial, commensurate with the dignity of the individual, is recognized as a facet of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.”**
The court also quoted the famous Irish poet Oscar Wilde, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.” Also at the end the court said that as long as the World Health organisation’s and central government’s guidelines are followed, there’s no reason to worry the right of those who have passed away due to COVID-19.
*Suo Motu WP No. 7492 of 2020, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 938, decided on 20-04-2020
**Pradeep Gandhy v. State of Maharashtra, LD-VC-46 of 2020, decided on 22-05-2020