The Madras High Court on Monday allowed the bail applications of 11 persons accused of disrupting the burial ceremony of a doctor, who succumbed to a heart attack after contracting the COVID-19 infection.
The single-Judge bench of Justice M. Nirmal Kumar observed that the accused acted in an irrational manner as they were "scared by the rumours" about the deadly virus.
Justice Nirmal further stated that had the authorities been cautious enough to explain the procedure and safeguards for burial of Covid infected bodies to the local residents, the incident could have been prevented.
"It is seen that the petitioners and the local residents had been scared by the rumours about the spread of deadly virus and that is the reason that they had expressed their reservation during the burial of the Doctor's body. If the authorities had informed in advance about the procedure of burial and the precaution measures followed by them, the local residents apprehension about the spread of virus would have been dispelled and such protest would not have occurred. Further the burial was at odd hours," Justice Nirmal said.
The Petitioner-accused had been booked under the relevant provisions of IPC for violating the lockdown orders, assault and criminal intimidation.
In their bail plea, it was submitted that the Petitioners were not educated and worldly wise and that they had committed the aforesaid acts on the basis of a news spread among them that a body of person who died from Corona is to be buried near their resident cemetery without taking any precautions.
The case pertains to the disruption caused in the burial of Dr. Simon Hercules, a 55 year old neurosurgeon who passed away last month after having tested positive for COVID-19 earlier.
His mortal remains were handed over to the family who headed to the Kilpauk cemetery in Chennai to bury him with dignity. However, a mob of locals reached the site upon receiving word about this, allegedly turned violent and attacked friends, family as well as the ambulance driver because they were determined not to allow the burial to proceed. They feared the burial would spread the virus.
Dr. Hercules was later buried in the presence of police security but without his family members being around, at some other cemetery.
The court has allowed the bail pleas of the accused on execution of personal bonds for a sum of Rs. 10,000/- each before the Superintendent of the concerned prison. They have also been directed to execute two sureties for a sum of Rs. 10,000/- each, before the concerned Magistrate on or before July 1, 2020, failing which the bail shall stand dismissed automatically.
Significantly, the a division bench of the High Court had taken suo moto cognizance of the incident and issued notice to the state on the issue of the right to burial being guaranteed under Article 21.
The Tamil Nadu Advocates Association had strongly condemned the mob attack on those attempting to bury the mortal remains of Dr. Hercules.
Case Title: Tamil Vendhan & Ors. v. The State
Case No.: Crl OP Nos. 7450, 7531, 7544, 7545, 7590, 7591, 7592 and 7593 of 2020
Quorum: Justice M. Nirmal Kumar
Appearance: Advocates SV Karthikeyan, S. Shankar, U. Yuvaraj and D. Gopikrishnan (for Petitioners); Additional Public Prosecutor S. Karthikeyan (for State)