The Bombay High Court has asked the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to file its reply in a writ petition filed by Mumbai resident Pradeep Gandhy challenging the permission given by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to use three cemeteries in Bandra for burial of victims of Covid-19.
In an order dated May 4, Supreme Court has directed the High Court to decide Gandhy's plea within two weeks after the petitioner filed a special leave petition challenging the High Court's order dated April 27 refusing to stop burials at the cemeteries in Bandra.
Justice Riyaz Iqbal Chagla heard Gandhy's plea wherein he has raised health and safety concerns involved in permitting burial of victims of Covid-19 in a densely populated area like Bandra. Gandhy's house is adjacent to one of the cemeteries where burials are taking place.
The petition contends that burials of those who died of COVID-19 might pose a health risk to the public at large and it should not be allowed for the time being. Moreover, the petition states that religious rights must be subject to public order and health, in this unprecedented health crisis that we find ourselves in.
Advocate Amogh Singh and Advocate Gaurav Shrivastav appeared on behalf of the petitioner, whereas Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare appeared on behalf of the respondent Corporation.
Petitioner's lawyers relied upon the Supreme Court's order dated May 4. Referring to the order, Justice Chagla noted that the apex court in the said order considered the fact that since the petitioner and his family members are worried about the spread of Covid-19 thanks to burials taking place in the immediately adjacent burial ground, the motion can itself be taken up and disposed at the earliest, preferably within a period of two weeks.
Advocate Singh argued that since the interim relief is the same as the final relief, the petition itself can be disposed of and it is not necessary as made out by the Corporation to file a motion in the petition.
Senior Counsel Sakhare stated that the order of the Supreme Court is very clear that a motion itself is contemplated which when filed is to be disposed of at the earliest. He sought time to file the reply on behalf of the Corporation. Court granted one week to file the reply.
Furthermore, an intervention application had also been filed by Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind contending that the petitioner's apprehensions were unfounded and non-scientific. The plea alleged that burial of dead bodies was essential in the practice of Islam and Christianity, and allowing the petition would go against the right to practice one's religion under Article 25.
Advocates for the intervenors requested a hearing and the Court asked them to remain present at the next date. The next date of hearing is May 19.
On March 30, 2020, then BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi had notified a circular declaring that mortal remains of those affected by coronavirus will be cremated at the nearest available site irrespective of religion and if burial is insisted upon, then the body will have to be taken out of the city. However, the same was withdrawn after Minority Development Minister Nawab Malik intervened.
The same was clarified by another bench of the High Court while hearing a plea alleging that BMC Circular mandates compulsory cremation of bodies of Covid-19 victims irrespective of religion. Court had ruled that the revised circular on disposal of bodies of coronavirus victims does not prevent burial of the deceased belonging to the minority community.
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