The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed pleas filed against Mumbai municipal authorities for permitting burials at three cemeteries in Bandra (West) amid the COVID-19. The pleas had been moved on fears that COVID-19 may spread through the buried bodies.
The Bombay High Court has pointed out that there was no scientific evidence to show that COVID-19 can spread through dead bodies.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and SS Shine 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.”
It was observed that, “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. There is, thus, no reason as to why an individual who dies during this period of crisis because of suspected/confirmed COVID-19 infection would not be entitled to the facilities he/she would have otherwise been entitled to but for the crisis.”
The Bombay High Court remarked,
“… we find little reason to deprive the dead of the last right, i.e., a decent burial according to his/her religious rites. On the face of there being no evidence, at least at this stage, that COVID-19 infection may spread to living human beings from the cadaver of any suspected/confirmed COVID-19 infected individual, the attempt on the part of the Petitioners to question the decision of the Municipal Commissioner to allow burials, without even challenging it, is misconceived and misdirected and does not persuade us to grant any of the reliefs claimed by them.”
While dismissing the pleas challenging such burial, the Bombay High Court also observed today that this is a fit case for imposing exemplary costs. However, the Bench refrained from doing the same, while observing that the petitioners may have been prompted to move the Court “more out of panic” than “any genuine belief that they had a strong case to espouse.”
The BMC’s directives permitting the burials of those dying of COVID-19 in available cemetery plots was upheld, with the Court emphasising that the precautionary guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Central Government would have to be followed in the process of burial.
The Bombay High Court said that the municipal authorities are empowered with the discretion to demarcate cemetery plots as required for the burial of persons. In this regard, the judgment states, “It is indeed a matter of policy whether to close down a place for disposal of the dead. Unless any decision shocks the conscience of the judicial review Court, it ought to stay at a distance.”
Read the Bombay High Court Judgment here: