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"Article 21 Includes Right To Have A Decent Burial": Madras HC Takes Cognizance On Mob Attack Against Burial Of Doctor Died Of COVID-19

MEHAL JAIN
20 April 2020 2:55 PM GMT
Article 21 Includes Right To Have A Decent Burial: Madras HC Takes Cognizance On Mob Attack Against Burial Of Doctor Died Of COVID-19
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Taking cognisance of a news item telecasted on Sunday evening on how the burial of a doctor, who succumbed to a heart attack, his ongoing health problems having been aggravated on account of COVID infection, invited mass opposition, creating a law and order situation, the Madras High Court on Monday issued notice to the state on the issue of the right to burial being guaranteed under...

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Taking cognisance of a news item telecasted on Sunday evening on how the burial of a doctor, who succumbed to a heart attack, his ongoing health problems having been aggravated on account of COVID infection, invited mass opposition, creating a law and order situation, the Madras High Court on Monday issued notice to the state on the issue of the right to burial being guaranteed under Article 21.

"In the considered opinion of the Court the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial. It prima facie appears that as a consequence of above said alleged acts, a person who practiced a noble profession as a doctor and breathed his last, has been deprived of his right, to have a burial, in a cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of law and order and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grievous injuries", observed the Division Bench.

The visual media channel namely "Puthiya Thalaimurai" had telecasted a news item at the evening hours yesterday showing that a Medical Doctor, who already had health problems, suffered a heart attack due to complications developed on account of a COVID-19 infection. The body of the Doctor was taken to a Christian Cemetary at Kilpauk, Chennai. The residents of the area assembled in large numbers and opposed the burial of the body. 

"As a consequence, the body had to be taken to Velangadu and buried. In the process, the ambulance in which the body was taken was also attacked, as were the persons accompanying the body. There was a law and order and public order problem on account of the said act and as a consequence, some public servants were also injured", narrates the order.

The Court also took Judicial notice of the fact that the informations relating to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines on 'Social Stigma Associated with COVID-19'.and 'Dead Body Management' are available in public domain and the people are expected to be aware of the said guidelines and follow them.

"Citizens are not expected to take law and order into their hands and if it is so, would definitely lead to anarchy. There is likelihood of similar kind of incidents to occur in future also", remarked the bench.

Reference was made to section 297, IPC which prescribes punishment for trespass on burial places- Whoever, with the inten­tion of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting their religion, or with the knowledge that he/she is likely to do so, commits trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sepulchre, or any place set apart from the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

It was further observed that in the 1963 case of Kharak Singh, the Apex Court had considered the purview of Article 21, ".... The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body or amputation of an arm or leg or the putting out of an eye or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world ...... Moreover it is every kind of deprivation that is hit by Article 21, whether such deprivation be permanent or temporary....." 

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