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File Affidavit on Compliance of Your Own Guidelines Issued For Proper Disposal Of Bodies Of COVID-19 Victims: Delhi HC To Delhi Government [READ ORDER]

By Parth Thummar.      05 June, 2020 10:13 AM      0 Comments
Guidelines Issued For Proper Disposal Of Bodies Of COVID19 Victims

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dhirubhai Naranbhai Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan of the Delhi High Court has on June 03, 2020, in suo motu case asked the respondent State and all three Municipal Corporations of Delhi the reason for slow disposal of dead bodies and directed them to file further status report/affidavit, also stating whether the guidelines/directions issued by Government of NCT of Delhi dated May 30, 2020, were scrupulously being followed.


Background of the proceedings

On May 28, 2020, a Division Bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon of the Delhi Court had taken suo moto cognizance of the news item reported in several newspapers in their Delhi Edition. The Bench had observed that as a citizen of Delhi, their lordships were pained by the state of affairs.  

It was reported that inside the COVID-19 Mortuary of Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi, there were 108 bodies; as all 80 storage racks were full and the rest of the 28 bodies were on the floor, piled on top of each other. Reportedly Lok Nayak Hospital is the largest dedicated COVID – 19 hospital in the city and its mortuary is the repository of bodies of those who had died of the coronavirus disease or were suspected to have died of it.

On May 26, 2020, eight bodies were returned from Nigam Bodh Ghat, CNG Crematorium because the facility was not in a position to accept more bodies, as only two of the six furnaces were working. It was also reported that bodies of those who had died 5 days ago, were yet to be cremated. These backlog in the disposal of bodies had been caused owing to the non-functioning of CNG furnaces at Nigam Bodh and Punjabi Bagh crematoriums. As the CNG furnaces were not functioning, wood-based cremation, which earlier was not deemed safe, had been permitted but in spite that, the personnel operating the said crematoriums were refusing to take part in wood-based cremations. There was also unrest at the Nigam Bodh Ghat and the staff and priests working there had stopped functioning. 

In this regard, the Court had referred to the Supreme Court judgment, Pt. Parmanand Katara, Advocate vs. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248, where the Apex Court had held that right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a living man but also his body, after his death. The right to decent burial or cremation was also emphasized in Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan vs. Union of India (2002) 2 SCC 27. 

Taking suo moto cognizance of the aforesaid violations of human rights, the Bench by that order had brought the matter to the notice of Hon'ble the Chief Justice, to take up in public interest, for issuing requisite directions. The matter was listed for next hearing on May 29, 2020, and the respondents had been called upon to explain about the position of unattended dead bodies inside the COVID-19 Mortuary of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital as well as why some of the dead bodies had been returned by the Nigam Bodh Ghat, CNG Crematorium to the hospital.

On May 29, 2020, the counsel appearing for the Government of NCT of Delhi had assured the Court that enough steps had been taken and the situation which had arisen, will not be repeated. The Counsels appearing for North Delhi Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, and South Delhi Municipal Corporation had also given the assurance in the same line. 

On June 02, 2020, the Bench was apprised by the Counsel of the Government of NCT of Delhi that besides Nigam Bodh Ghat crematorium now Pachkuiyan and Punjabi Bagh crematoriums were also authorized to dispose of the dead bodies of persons who were COVID-19 positive or suspected to be COVID-19 positive. Moreover, timings of the crematoriums which were 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. have now been extended to 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

Looking to paragraph-6 of the status report the Government of NCT of Delhi dated 1st June 2020, the Court found that as on May 31, 2020, out of total 45 dead bodies only 7 were disposed of and 10 new dead bodies were received. In this regard, the Court asked the reason for the slow disposal of these dead bodies from the respondents and directed them to file further status report/affidavit, also stating whether the guidelines/directions issued by Government of NCT of Delhi dated May 30, 2020, were scrupulously being followed. 

The matter is listed for further hearing on June 15, 2020




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