Shimla, May 13
Himachal Pradesh High court issued a notice to Himachal Pradesh Government on a public interest the petition filed by an advocate for an alleged act of depriving family member of COVID-19 deceased to perform last rite and violating prescribed cremation guidelines.
The notice was issued by a division bench of Chief Justice Lingappa Narayana Swamy and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua to Chief Secretary of Himachal Government Anil Khachi Additional Chief Secretary Health R D Dhiman and Special Secretary Health cum Director National Health Mission Dr Nipun Jindal and Commissioner of Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) Pankaj Rai in the matter.
The court issued notice to an above Government official on the PIL moved by Petitioner Advocate Anil Kumar of Mandi district currently practicing in Himachal Pradesh High court. The petition was moved in person through Video conferencing. The court listed the matter for next week in the meantime reply if any can be filed petitioner to supply a copy of the petition to the ASGI.
Petitioner alleged that a few days back, in Sarkaghat of Mandi district one person was found infected by Coronavirus. He thereafter was shifted to the IGMC Shimla for treatment as in Sarkaghat there is no medical facility to treat the patient of Coronavirus, where he died.
He said that respondents violated the guidelines “COVID-19 dead Body management as an order was issued by the respondent ( here Jindal ) to performing the last rites of the deceased. The petition referring a guideline issued by Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare stated that for the persons who died due to Coronavirus, their relative could see the body one last time ‘‘viewing of the dead body by unzipping the face end of the body bag as per SOPs. However touching or embracing the body is not allowed as per protocol.
Petitioner alleged that the parents of the deceased were not called to see the face of their son for the last time and rather it was burnt as unclaimed body’. The petitioner contended that guidelines permits ‘religious rituals such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water & any other last rites that do not require touching of the body could be allowed.
The Petition blamed the respondents that since deceased was burnt as ‘unclaimed body’ the parents of the deceased could not perform the last rites of their son which were required as per Hindu dharma.
The petitioner further alleged that Health staff who had taken the dead body to the crematorium had allegedly left the crematorium, leaving the body unburnt. Kumar maintains that as per guideline it was the duty of the staff accompanying the dead body to the stay at crematorium till the body is fully burnt.
Petitioner referring some news item stated that the body was burnt by pouring diesel on it which is against the public feeling as well as religious sentiments. The petition further mentioned that SDM had asked the police authorities to provide constables in case some dispute arose but the authorities did not provided any Constable and similarly, Shimal MC were also asked to provide workers but the workers were also not provided.
Petitioner said that it was against the Hindu dharma as well as religious faith as one could not burn the body after the sunset ” The respondents at their own took the dead body to the crematorium at 2300 hrs and same was burnt by 0300 hrs with the help of pouring diesel on the same, which is inhumane act on the part of the respondents.” the petitioner alleged.
” Any type of contempt towards a human corpse, disturbing the performance of funeral rites, is a criminal offense under the penal Code. ” Anil Kumar said in the petition.
Referring to some posts of social media about the cremation he said that people are making posts and raising voice with the caption “Justice for ….” and are demanding strict action against the persons responsible for inhumane act.
The petition, also, seeking suitable compensation for the affected parents in the the interest of justice said that respondents may be directed to pay some suitable compensation to the parents of the deceased for hurting thee sentiment by the respondents.
Petitioner also contended that respondent-State may be directed to ensure that in case any person dies with the Coronavirus, the last rites may kindly be done as per customs and rituals as per the religion of the victims.
It is worthwhile to mentions here that State has already decided to conduct a magisterial inquiry by ADM Bilaspur regarding the death of a youth of Swarghat who was referred to Shimla for treatment. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur also assured in the matter that any laxity in this regard would not be tolerated and strict the action would be taken against erring officials.