‘Right of dead to receive decent, respectful last rites’; Bombay HC orders Commissioner, Municipal Corpn. to issue directions to find plots of land to be used as burial grounds

Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: The present PIL filed against the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (Municipal Corporation’) was concerned with the scarcity of adequate space to be used for burial ground so that the dead can be given decent and respectful departing note. The Division Bench of Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya, CJ., and Amit Borkar, J., while observing the callousness on the part of the authorities, ordered the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation to personally look into the matter and issue directions for finding out another plot of land to be used as burial ground.

The Court in its order dated 22-08-2024, noted that under Section 436 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, there is a statutory obligation of the Municipal Corporation which casts a duty to provide adequate space for disposal of dead. The Court noted that three plots of land namely, some space next to Deonar Colony – Plot 1; some space at Rafi Nagar – Plot 2; and a plot of land near Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited – Plot 3 were identified as burial grounds which were to be made available at the earliest, but the expected co-operation from the authorities did not appear.

The Court noted that Plot 1 had some dispute in relation to the site and a writ petition was filed before this Court challenging the reservation of the land as cemetery. The Court thus clubbed the said writ petition with the present PIL. Further, Plot 2 was not feasible to become a cemetery as it contained a solid waste heap and no alternate plot was found near the vicinity even after seven months from the discovery of the unfeasibility. The Court noted that Plot 3 was owned by some private entity and the process of compulsory acquisition had been initiated but despite previous directions of the Court to complete the process of compulsory acquisition within the minimum statutory period in terms of the provisions of the enactment, namely, Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the Municipal Corporation had not yet deposited 30% of the compensation which may be paid in case of acquisition.

The Court stated that such callousness on the part of the authorities cannot be appreciated as right of dead to be given decent and respectful last rites is as important as any other right available when he is alive. The Court highlighted that it is the statutory duty and obligation cast on the Municipal Corporation to provide adequate place for burial of the dead.

The Court ordered the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation to personally look into the matter and issue directions/instructions for-

  • finding out another plot of land to be used as burial ground within the vicinity of three kms of Plot 2.

  • ensuring that all steps are taken for initiation and completion of the process of acquisition of Plot 3, including making the required deposit.

The matter has been listed for 21-06-2024.

[Shamsher Ahmed Shaikh v. Municipal Corpn., Greater Mumbai, 2024 SCC OnLine Bom 1629, Order dated 10-06-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioners: Advocate Altaf Khan, Advocate Akash Mangalgi, Senior Advocate Yusuf Muchhala

For the Respondents: Senior Advocate Ram Apte with Oorja Dhond i/b. S.K. Sonawane, Additional Government Pleader Abhay L. Patki, AGP Atul Vanarse, Advocate Dhruti M. Kapadia, Senior Advocate Ashutosh Kumbhakoni i/b. Akshay Shinde

For the Intervenor: Tejas D. Deshmukh with H.D. Chavan

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