Jharkhand High Court: The Division Bench of Ravi Ranjan and Sujit Narayan Prasad, JJ., disposed of the writ petition with observations and direction hereunder.
The instant writ petition has been filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, however, public interest litigation, praying inter alia to show cause as to why “COVID 19: GUIDELINES ON DEAD BODY MANAGEMENT,” issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directorate General of Health Services is being flouted and to allow the family members of the COVID-19 deceased, who are willing to claim the bodies, to perform the last customary rites of the departed soul as per their tradition and custom.
It has also been prayed for to allow to perform the last customary rites of the departed soul as per their tradition and custom, with due safety, complying with the restrictions imposed by the government in order to give due respect to the departed soul one last time, as the same very much falls within the constitutional obligations enshrined under Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the State Government is not following the guideline issued by the Government of India as also the State Government which has been notified for the people in general pertaining to Covid-19 Guidelines on Dead Body Management dated 15.03.2020 wherein the State Government has taken decision for handing over the dead body of the person died due to Covid-19 to their kith and kin or relatives in order to pay due respect to their relatives as per their religious traditions.
Counsel for the respondent submitted counter affidavit stating inter alia therein that the grievance raised by the writ petitioner is partially true. Further, it has been stated that Covid-19 patients were handed over to the local administration by the hospitals and family members were not allowed to dispose of the dead body by themselves.
Paragraph-18 of the counter affidavit is quoted herein
“18. That with regard to the statement made by the petitioner in paragraph 11 of the writ application under reply, it is humbly stated and submitted that it is partially true. It is true that the COVID-19 patients were handed over to the local administration by the hospitals. Family members were not allowed to dispose of the dead body by themselves. They were permitted to perform the religious rituals and last rites according to the Covid-19 Guidelines on Dead Body Management. There are two burning ghats in Jamshedpur and only one was being used for disposing the COVID-19 dead bodies for the Hindus, as in the initial phase of COVID-19, law and order issue had emerged in one of the burning ghats.”
The Court observed that when the Government has formulated a guideline, it has to be followed in its letter and spirit.
The Court held “writ petition is disposed of directing the respondent concerned to follow the decision taken by the State Government dated 04.08.2020 for disposal of the dead bodies who die due to Covid-19 infection.”
[Sitwanto Devi v. State of Jharkhand, W.P. (PIL) No. 1961 of 2021, decided on 17-06-2021]
Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioner: Ms. Aprajita Bhardwaj
For the Respondent- State: Mr. Ashutosh Anand
For the Respondent 7: Mr. Amit Kumar Das