An intervention application has been filed in the Supreme Court in the petition seeking temporary ban of burial at Muslim cemeteries amidst the COVID19 outbreak.
The application has been filed by the organisation Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind who contend that banning burial of dead bodies of people who suffered from the novel coronavirus is against the tenets of Constitutional principles, vis-à-vis Right to practice one’s religion under Article 25 of the Constitution as this is an essential practice amongst the Muslims and/or Christians.
Fearing the risk of spread of COVID-19 through infected dead bodies, a Mumbai resident had moved Supreme Court seeking a stay on burials in three cemeteries near his residential area. (Pradeep Gandhy Vs. State of Maharashtra)
Petitioner Pradeep Gandhy has moved a Special leave petition after the Bombay High Court refused to stay the burials of deceased on 27 April.
the organisation stated, “It is submitted that the apprehension of the Petitioner herein that burial of dead bodies of those persons who were infected with COVID-19 will risk the spread of such infection in the vicinity is unfounded and that at the outset it is pertinent to mention that there is no risk of spreading of the COVID-19 virus during such burial.”
The intervention application further contends that the grievance of the petitioner is based only on unfounded “apprehensions” and henceit must not be allowed.
The application also highlighted various advisories issued by the Government of India as well as by the World Health Organisation which stated against what has been averred by the Petitioner, i.e., “the burial of persons infected with COVID19 would risk spread of infection in the neighbouring areas”
The applicant submitted, “…transmission of COVID-19 is through droplets and that there is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID infection from a dead body to health workers or family members who follow standard precautions while handling body.”
In this backdrop, it has also been highlighted that if basic and proper guidelines while conducting burials are followed including sensitisation of Crematorium, burial ground staff, following basic practices of hand hygiene and precautions; transmission of infection cannot happen.
Precautions prescribed by WHO in case the burial being done solely by family members in case of deaths at home, such as not touching or kissing the body after it has been prepared as per custom for burial, keeping people who have underlying illnesses, children and older people away from etc were stated.
Further, applicant contended that Guidelines enunciate “religious rituals such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water and any other last rites that not require touching of the body” could allowed for conducting last rites.
Applicant also emphasised on the myths that people who have died of a communicable disease, must be creamted. Regarding these as misconception it was submitted that,
“It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true. Cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources.”
Lastly, the Applicant also draws international comparisons with USA, UK, Italy, Canada & Middle Eastern countries whereby it stated that no such “increased risk of spread of COVID19 virus has been highlighted by these nations”
Intervention application has been filed on behalf of Advocate Ejaz Maqbool.