Coronavirus | Madras HC| “Art. 21 includes right to have decent burial”; Court takes suo motu cognizance of obstruction caused in burial of COVID-19 infected doctor

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and M. Nirmal Kumar, JJ. took up the present matter by was of suo motu Writ Petition as a Public Interest Litigation.

It was noted by the Court through the medium of a channel named “Puthiya Thalaimurai”, wherein it was telecasted that a Medical Doctor, who had health problems suffered from heart attack due to complications developed on account of COVID 19 infection. Body of the doctor was taken to a Christian Cemetry, though the residents assembled and opposed the burial of the said body.

In view of the above, body was taken to Velangadu and buried, during the process, ambulance was also attacked due to which some public servants were injured.

With regard to Article 21, Supreme Court’s decision in , Francis Coraile Mullin v. Administrator, UT of Delhi, (1981) 1 SCC 608, was cited wherein, it was observed that,

Now obviously, the right to life enshrined in Article 21 cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It means something much more than just physical survival.”

Bench in the present matter stated that the scope of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial. 

Prima facie it appears that a person who practiced a noble profession as a doctor and breathed his last, has been deprived of his right to have a burial, in cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of law and order and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grevious injuries.

Court observed that the information relating to guidelines to be followed  in respect of COVID 19 cases are available in public domain at the instance of the Centre and State Government and people are expected to be aware of the said guidelines issued from time to time.

“Citizens are not expected to take law and order into their hands and if it is so, would definitely lead to anarchy.”

Thus, Court issued notices in public interest to the authorities concerned.

Matter is listed on 28-04-2020. [Suo Motu WP No. 7492 of 2020,  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 938, decided on 20-04-2020]

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