COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that the body of a man, who died near a government office in Utraula block of Balrampur District in Uttar Pradesh was being dumped in a garbage van by the Municipal workers while some Police personnel stood mute bystanders.

Reportedly, after a video went viral, the Balrampur district administration has placed four municipal workers under suspension and three police personnel. The Commission has issued notices to the Chairman, Municipal Corporation Balrampur and the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter in four weeks.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that going by the contents of the media reports, it is not expected from the public servants to show such disregard to the body of a deceased. They appear to have acted in a very shameful and inhuman manner. Body of a deceased human being always deserves a dignified treatment. The approach adopted by the police as well as the municipal workers cannot be accepted in a civilised society. They have not only failed to do their duty but also crossed the limits of the sickening cruelty. This is a serious issue of violation of human rights.

The Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh is expected to issue necessary guidelines to all the district and municipal authorities immediately that the bodies of the deceased persons and people in need of immediate medical care found on the roads, are attended to promptly and treated with dignity. The State government is also expected to identify cremation grounds or burial places for the patients died of Covid infection, so that unnecessary harassment to the relatives of the deceased by locals could be avoided.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 12th June,2020, a Sub-Inspector and two constables could be seen in the video standing as mute spectators while the body of the deceased man was being loaded by the municipal workers in a vehicle meant to carry garbage. The district police authorities of Balrampur have reportedly stated that it was an insensitive incident. The Superintendent of Police, Balrampur has prima-facie found one Sub Inspector and two constables guilty in the matter.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 12-06-2020

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

“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.”

– Oscar Wilde

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and S.S. Shinde, J. addressed petitions filed against the burial of dead bodies of COVID-19 infected patients in kabrasthans. The Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai had notified a list of kabrasthans for burial of such dead bodies. While dismissing the petitions and allowing the burial of dead bodies, the Court directed that:

” the State as well as the Corporation to ensure that all protective measures envisaged in the GoI guidelines are strictly complied with not only by the members of the family of the deceased at the time of burial but also by those second-line workers who would, as part of their duty, deal with the cadaver of any suspected/confirmed COVID-19 infected individual immediately after death. It is only in public interest that the GoI guidelines have been issued and such guidelines shall not be allowed to be observed in the breach by anyone.”

Court putting up the concern with regard to burials stated that, “havoc of Corona Virus was enough to cause disarray in Mumbai, to top it, burials of unfortunate who died of COVID19 infection became a subject of controversy.”

To the above controversy, Court stated that it is now tasked to put the same at rest.

By a petition dated 13th April, 2020 petitioner had placed their concern that burial of the cadaver of a COVID-19 infected individual in a kabrasthan in the vicinity of their residences would endanger their lives as well as other living nearby and in view of that they requested for the same to be restrained.

Court on perusal of the WHO recommendations observed that,

“…even according to the WHO, there is no evidence of persons having developed infection of COVID-19 from exposure to the cadaver of a suspected/confirmed COVID-19 individual. That apart, the recommendations of the WHO are further clear on the point that people who have died because of COVID-19 infection can either be buried or cremated.”

Further the bench stated that,

“…It all boils down to the nature of precautions taken while one handles the dead body and also at the time of its burial.”

“…We are not too sure as to whether the incumbent Municipal Commissioner while directing that burial should not be allowed for containing the spread of COVID-19 and that the dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium, irrespective of religion, was aware of the recommendations of the WHO and the GoI guidelines.”

Also the bench added that, Municipal Commissioner could be justified in evolving and implementing any containment measure not forming part of the specified measures, provided such a measure had the sanction of the existing protocols for management of COVID-19 or was such a pivotal measure, otherwise widely acknowledged, which was not included in the GoI guidelines.

Court thus held the action of Municipal Commissioner in preventing burials to be illegal and unauthorized and hence, the amended circular cannot be operated to the detriment of the members of the community for whom burial of the dead is part of the religion they profess, practice or propagate.

Unless any decision shocks the conscience of the judicial review Court, it ought to stay at a distance.

Concluding its decision, Court referred to the decision of Parmanand Katara (Pt) v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248, wherein it was held that right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution is not only available to a living man but also to his body after his death.

Right to a decent burial, commensurate with the dignity of the individual, is recognized as a facet of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

Thus Court found no reason as to why the dead be deprived of his/her last rites. [Pradeep Gandhy v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 662 , decided on 22-05-2020]