The Supreme Court on Monday disposed of a Special Leave Petition against a Bombay High Court order which had refused to stay burials in 3 cemeteries in Bandra with directions to the High Court to decide the matter within 2 weeks.
Noting that the impugned order was passed at an interim stage of the hearing, the Bench comprising of Justices RF Nariman and Indira Banerjee deemed it appropriate to send the petitioners back to the High Court, for final disposal.
Justice Nariman observed that a proper hearing was warranted after calling for a report from the Maharashtra Government as well as Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
"We're sending you back to the High Court. The order was passed at an interim stage, let there be a proper hearing after respondents file their reports. They may decide this within 2 weeks."
Fearing the risk of COVID-19 spreading through infected dead bodies, a Mumbai resident had moved Supreme Court against the High Court's order of April 27, refusing to stay burials of deceased in 3 cemeteries in near his residence Bandra West. The original writ petition before the High Court had challenged the permission given by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to use certain cemeteries in Bandra for burials, but the aforementioned interim order rendered the plea infructuous, contended the petitioner.
The petitioner, Pradeep Gandhy, has raised health and safety concerns involved in permitting burials to take place, especially in densely populated areas such as his.
His primary contention is that burials of those who died of COVID-19 might pose a health risk to the public at large and therefore, should not be allowed for the time being. Religious rights must be subject to public order and health, in this unprecedented health crisis that we find ourselves in, urges the petition drawn up by Advocate Udayaditya Banerjee.
It is argued that even if burials are permitted, the same should take place in less populated/congested areas due to the potential catastrophe that could fall upon the residents of these places, adjacent to the cemeteries alluded to. To this end, examples of cemeteries located in such areas, which have not been listed by the BMC in its circular, have also been suggested.
An intervention application was also filed thereafter by Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, claimed that burial of dead bodies was essential in the practice of Islam, and/or Christianity, and allowing the petitioners' prayer would go against the Right to practice one's religion under Article 25.
This application, filed by Advocate Ejaz Maqbool, further contended that the plea was based on the petitioner's unfounded apprehensions, which lacked scientific backing, and must therefore be rejected.