Kerala High Court on Wednesday reserved its order in a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Rule 43 of the Aircraft (Public Health) Rules, 1954 as much as it mandates that for importation of dead body of Indian citizen from any foreign country the Health Officer of the concerned airport should be given advance intimation of at least 48 hours of the same.
According to the petition the effect of impugned provision is that when an Indian Citizen dies on a foreign land, where he was making his livelihood or where he has gone for personal or official purposes, his friends or relatives have to keep his mortal remains there itself for 48 hours even after completing all other formalities.
Further, they have to find out air transport service to book the consignment before this 48 hours duration, so as to enable the air transport service to give advance intimation to the Health Officer of Indian airport. On the other side, his family members in India has to wait for 48 hours more to see the body and to give his last rites.
The Petitioner also challenged a notification issued under the above rule.
Advocate Haris Beeran appeared for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner compelled to move the petition on urgent basis on account of a notification issued by the Respondent Officer under the same Rules in as much as it places onerous conditions upon the attendants of a deceased person and also clearly infringes upon the dignity of a deceased person to be buried or cremated with dignity.
Rule 3 of the 1954 Rules says that the Commander of an Aircraft which is on its way to India from any place outside India shall sent to Officer In-charge of the Airport where he proposes to land in India, a health report stating whether any person on board the aircraft is suffering from any illness and details of such illness.
“As per sub Rule (2) of Rule 3 such report shall be sent if the aircraft is not equipped with wireless, by means of cablegram from the last place of landing before entering India, and if the aircraft equipped with wireless by means of a wireless massage within not less than 2 hours of proposed landing. Rule 41 specifically bans importation of the dead body of a person who may have died of serious epidemic such as Yellow Fever, Plague, Anthrax, Glanders. Hence, importation of the dead body of a person died under any other circumstances can be permitted with the same procedure as prescribed under Rule 3. It is the respectful submission of the petitioner that there is no justification or reasonableness for mandating advance intimation of 48 hours for importation of dead bodies.
According to the petitioner, such an unreasonable provision infringes upon fundamental rights of the deceased as well as his relatives enshrined in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.