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Article 21 includes Right to Decent Burial : Madras High Court

Article 21 includes Right to Decent Burial : Madras High Court
- Dr. Kalpeshkumar L Gupta

As whole country is fighting against Covid-19, certain unwarranted issues like religious elements, behavioural changes in human being really diverting our focus from the serious issues. India has registered 18000+ cases and close to 600 deaths. Central and State Governments are making all effort to tackle this pandemic which has been growing day by day by way of implementing urgent policies and invoking older laws. I have personally seen lot of change in human behaviour positively and negatively. In positive part, people have started adopting to change and learning new skills and method. While negative aspects, people are also frustrated being at home and acting irrationally. They are losing patience to deal with service providers like police, doctor, nurses, sanitary workers, shopkeepers, vegetable vendors etc. Almost every day, I witness unpleasant incidents, when I go to buy necessary items. We are required to understand their mental status and support, appreciate them for their services which they render risking their lives.

Recently, I saw couple of news items where people denied burying the dead body of corona virus patient and created ruckus. Police force and administrations had to intervene and handle the situation. On April 19, Medical Doctor from Chennai died of Covid 19. His dead body was taken to cemetery. The residents of the area assembled at large numbers and opposed the burial of the said body. This was telecasted on local media channel. Looking at this Madras High Court took suo moto action and filed PIL. Ambulance, persons accompanying the body and public servants were attacked. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued summary of guidelines to deal with Covid-19. In these guidelines, part on Social Stigma Associated with Covid-19 also mentioned. It also issued the guidelines on Dead Body Management on April 16 in which all precautionary measures have been mentioned while disposing the dead body. In one of the case SC held that “Now obviously, the right to life enshrined in Article 21 cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It means something much more than just physical  survival.” 

In the considered opinion of the Court the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial. It prima facie appears that as a consequence of above said alleged acts, a person who practiced a noble profession as a doctor and breathed his last, has been deprived of his right, to have a burial, in a cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of law and order and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grevious injures. (Suo Moto WP 7492 of 2020)

This Court can also take Judicial notice of the fact that the information relating to guidelines to be followed in respect of Covid-19 cases are available in public domain at the instance of the Central Government and State Government as well as through social media and the people are expected to be aware of the said guidelines issued from time to time. Citizens are not expected to take law and order into their hands and if it is so, would definitely lead to anarchy. There is likelihood of similar kind of incidents to occur in future also. Notices have been issued to concerned departments and offices for further actions.

Full Judgement can be accessed here