The Jharkhand High Court recently disposed of a PIL seeking "safe management and disposal" of Covid infected dead bodies by directing the state government to implement the "Dead Body Management Guidelines" notified by Government of India last month.
The petition was disposed of by a bench comprising of Chief Justice Dr. Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad after assurances given by the state government in this regard.
The Petitioner had approached the court highlighting that the state government had not yet notified or fixed a place for cremation/ burial of the Covid-19 dead bodies, leading to disruption during funerals.
Citing an indecent in this regard he informed the court that disruptions during funerals were in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution that protects the right to dignity and fair treatment, available not only to a living man but also to his body after his death (See Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248).
The Petitioner submitted that in one such case, a deceased was denied burial at three Burial Grounds due to fear that allowing the same may make the people living in the vicinity more vulnerable to the infection.
He then averred that though there is not much threat because of burial as per present research but the Government must follow the Guidelines on Dead body Management. Inter alia, he also drew attention of the court towards the interim guidance dated March 24, 2020 regarding Infection, Prevention and Control for the safe management of dead body in the context of COVID – 19, as notified by the World Health Organisation.
In view thereof the Petitioner had sought that the state Government be directed to notify the place of burial/cremation in every district of Jharkhand and also keep the proper record of place of burial and cremation.
Further, he had prayed that the people involved in dead body management must follow "Standard Precautions" while handling the body and the Government must provide proper training for standard handling. "All staff identified to handle dead bodies in the isolation area, mortuary, ambulance and those workers in the crematorium / burial ground should be trained in the infection prevention control practices," he pleaded.
During the course of hearing, the state Government filed a counter affidavit, stating therein that alternate burial/cremation sites for persons dying due to Covid-19 infection have been identified and notified far away from the populated localities of Ranchi at Bundu.
The state also submitted that the guidelines regarding Dead Body Management and Bio-medical Waste Management arising out of Covid-19 pandemic were being followed strictly and appropriate letter in this regard had also been issued by the State Government to all concerned authorities.
In the face of these submissions, the bench recorded its satisfaction and disposed of the petition.
"Since the issue raised in this writ petition has adequately been redressed by the State Government as it appears from the counter affidavit and the averments made by the learned Advocate General, this writ petition is consigned," the court held.
Case Title: Gulab Chandra Prajapati v. State of Jharkhand & Ors.
Case No.: WP (PIL) No. 1304/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Dr. Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad
Appearance: Advocate Sonal Tiwary (for Petitioner); Advocate General Rajiv Ranjan (for State)
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