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Respectful Last Rites As Important As Other Fundamental Rights: High Court

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The right of a dead person to a decent and respectful last rite is as important as other fundamental rights, the Bombay High Court observed on Monday while hearing a PIL seeking additional burial grounds for Mumbai’s eastern suburbs.

Should people “go to Mars” for burial?, asked an exasperated High Court and pointed out that since November, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not been able to find a plot for a burial ground.

A division bench of Chief Justice D K Upadhyaya and Justice Amit Borkar pulled up the BMC for its callous approach in providing additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs for over two years.

A statutory duty and obligation was cast on the municipal corporation to provide an adequate place for the respectful disposal of the dead. Civic authorities cannot shirk their responsibility in this regard, the bench noted.

“The right of a dead person to a decent and respectful last rite is as important as other fundamental rights,” it observed.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by three residents of suburban Govandi — Shamsher Ahmed, Abrar Chaudhari and Abdul Rehman Shah — seeking additional burial grounds for Mumbai’s eastern suburbs.

The petition claimed there were three proposed locations for a burial ground — one adjacent to an existing ground in Deonar, another behind Rafiq Nagar (a former dumping ground), and a third about 8 km away from Govandi’s main population centre in Anik village, which abuts a Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) refinery.

The BMC had earlier told the court that the Deonar ground and the Rafiq Nagar area were not suitable for a burial ground.

The bench then quipped if people should go to Mars for burial. “Then they should go to Mars? Since November you have not been able to find a plot. Where will the dead go now?” CJ Upadhyaya said.

The court noted it has been passing orders regularly to ensure the plots of these three sites are made available at the earliest for burial “but the expected cooperation from authorities of BMC does not appear to be in sight”.

The bench has asked the BMC commissioner to look into the matter “personally” and issue necessary directions to its officers with regard to finding another plot of land to be used as a burial ground within the vicinity of 3 kilometres of Rafiq Nagar.

“We also call upon the BMC commissioner to file a personal affidavit by the next day of hearing indicating steps to be taken by authorities to ensure compliance of this order,” the court said.

The High Court posted the matter for further hearing on June 21.

 The right of a dead person to a decent and respectful last rite is as important as other fundamental rights, the Bombay High Court observed on Monday while hearing a PIL seeking additional burial grounds for Mumbai’s eastern suburbs.    

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