The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the State government and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to relook at the guidelines/protocol issued by them for disposing of dead bodies of persons tested positive for COVID-19.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar said :
"According to us, all the authorities are bound to come out with the protocol/guidelines with emphasis on the dignity of the dead. What is important is that dead bodies are given dignified cremation or burial, depending upon the cultural and religious traditions of a particular dead person."
The bench stated that the guidelines of the State and BBMP proceed on the presumption that the dead body of a coronavirus patient is a potential source of spread of COVID-19. Citing the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which note that dignity of the dead, their cultural and religious tradition and their families should be respected and protected throughout, the bench said "All the authorities are bound to come out with the protocol/guidelines with emphasis on the dignity of the dead."
The court, referring to the BBMP protocol which says that BBMP officials will transfer the dead body to the crematorium or burial ground, the bench said :
"If in case of a particular religious practice in a community does not allow a woman in the house to visit burial or crematorium ground, it may not be possible for a woman in the house to see the face of the dead person."
It added that "These are the matters where the government must pay attention."
Further, observing that the status of COVID-19 should disappear at least in the death certificate, the court directed the State government to come out with proper guidelines. The bench emphasised that there has to be absolute clarity of all procedures while dealing with dead bodies to avoid any confusion.
The bench also directed the state to by Wednesday comply with the supreme Court direction issued in its June 19 order, directing states to constitute an expert committee of doctors to monitor the hospital and other facilities dealing with Covid-19 patients.
Other directions :
Beds availability data:
The court said "No machinery is in place which ensures that private hospitals follow the directions issued by the state government and do not refuse admission to patients. It is a matter of fact that state owned facilities are not sufficient to deal with a large number of covid cases. It is of a great deal of importance that a machinery is in place which will monitor activities of private hospitals. As stated earlier for real time updates of data of availability of beds direction be issued to all hospitals to provide data of available beds.
State has been told to ensure that a centralized ambulance system is in place for transporting Covid-19 patients.
Observing that pourakarmikas in the entire state are at the forefront of the war against COVID-19, the BBMP must ensure daily payment of salary to them without fail.
"The state is directed to ensure that pourakarmikas working across the state are extended the same benefit as extended to pourakarmikas working in the jurisdiction of BBMP. BBMP must also clarify whether all pourakarmikas will be subjected to rapid antigen tests. State is told to come out with a policy of testing pourakarmikas in other jurisdictions".