Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and N. J. Jamdar, J. dismissed a Public Interest Litigation seeking enforcement of safety guidelines while disposing of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients. The Court said that the petitioner could not provide any material to support his application.

Petitioner through the Public Interest Litigation sought to bring to judicial notice alleged negligence in management and disposal of dead bodies of COVID-19 victims by the staff of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, more particularly in crematoriums at Shivaji Park and Chandanwadi.

Corporation by filing an affidavit-reply denied the allegations in the PIL petition.

Petitioner placed following prayers:

  • Court may be pleased to direct the respondent to direct the respondent State to enforce the safety guidelines for applying 1% hypoclorite over the bodies.
  • direct the Respondent to ensure that the bodies of the COVID- 19 patients are wrapped in the ‘leak-proof’ bags before sending them to the crematoriums, Muslim & Christian burial places.
  • direct the Respondent to provide adequate medication, protective overalls and sufficient material to maintain hygiene for the workers engaged at the funeral places.

Corporation referring to the guidelines laid down on 15th March, 2020 issued by MoHFW on management of dead bodies and a circular dated 4th June, 2020 with regard to SOP for handling of dead bodies, it was contended that the provisions of the guidelines were being strictly enforced so as to keep the spread of virus within manageable limits.

In a rejoinder affidavit filed by the petitioner it was vaguely alleged that the guidelines issued were not being strictly followed by the Corporation.

Court on perusal of Vhatkar and Sakhare, Senior Advocate for the Corporation’s pleadings stated that,

allegations made by the petitioner do not appear to be based on his personal knowledge infact the same has been made on reading certain newspaper reports.

Further the Court noted that no material was placed before the Court that could even remotely support or validate the stand of the petitioner.

Thus, Court held the fears and concerns of the petitioner to be misconceived.

“…petitioner has been residing in Pune during the lockdown period and alleging mismanagement in Mumbai has also left us to wonder how he could have verified the pleadings in the PIL Petition as true to the best of his knowledge.

Bench stated that if they keep aside the technicalities and proceed on the merits of the matter, on one hand the emphatic stand of the Corporation that the guidelines are being scrupulously followed and enforced in the matter of management and disposal of dead bodies of COVID victims. Not only has the Corporation pleaded that the polythene bags in which the cadavers are wrapped are of the requisite quality, it is also pleaded that ‘hypoclorite’, to the extent necessary, is being administered on the cadaver so as to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hence, Court in view of the above dismissed the petition and stated that the Court hopes and trust that the Corporation shall continue to earnestly adhere to and enforce the extant guidelines so that life of each and every citizen is preserved. [Ketan Tirodkar v. State of Maharashtra, PIL-CJ-LD-VC–29 of 2020, decided on 03-07-2020]

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