Crematorium for fishermen community: Bombay HC calls for register of deaths from crematorium maintained by BMC

A register of death is a register maintained by the crematorium providing details of the bodies cremated there.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Monday, September 19, 2022, 07:32 PM IST
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Observing that the court machinery was “abused for removal of a fishermen community’s crematorium” at Malad, the Bombay High Court has directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to produce the register of death since 1991.

A register of death is a register maintained by the crematorium providing details of the bodies cremated there.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar rapped the BMC and the Maharashtra Coastal ZOne Managament Authority (MCZMA) for prompt action against the crematorium at Erangal beach in suburban Malad without following “due process of law” and without giving a hearing to the fisherfolks, who have been using the same since 1995.

The HC was hearing a petition filed by one Chetan Vyas raising concerns over unauthorized construction of a Hindu crematorium on the beach by the fishing community. The PIL claimed the construction was in violation of Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) rules.

The fisherfolk claimed that they have been using the crematorium since 1995 and recently, they were rebuilding the structure which was damaged during Cyclone Taste last year.

In a detailed order, the HC said: “Prima facie we feel that the machinery of the court was abused for removal of the crematorium. This we say after seeing the documents placed by the advocate of the fishermen community as well as by the deputy collector.”

The court took note of the fact that the community has been using the crematorium since 1995. The advocate for the community produced a copy of the letter given by the health department of the BMC granting permission to carry out the cremation of a man in November 1995.

“Having regard to documents produced by the community, we find even in 1995, the crematorium was in operation and there has been a cremation pursuant to instructions issued by the health department of BMC on Nov 2, 1995,” added the court.

The HC has directed Anil Sakhare, counsel for the BMC to produce the death register pertaining to cremation prior to 1991. The court has also asked the BMC to show whether the crematorium was in operation prior to CRZ notification coming into force in February 1991.

In 2021, the HC directed the MCZMA to take necessary action “in accordance with law”. The court was informed that the MCZMA, without giving a hearing to the fishermen community passed an order to demolish the structure.

Irked by the swiftness shown in the case, the HC said the authorities have not taken action in several matters despite specific court directions. “We will be compelled to record that this has been a very high-handed action against the fisher community without following the process of law,” said CJ Datta.

After going through a photograph produced by the fishermen community, CJ Datta remarked that if the said crematorium was illegal then why would an MLA contribute to the construction of the same, from the government funds, in 2008. “It is constructed from MLA funds given by the Maharashtra government. Below it is written Mumbai Mahanagar Palika,” said CJ Datta.

“So when the force went there to demolish didn’t they see all this? Do you think you can just bulldoze the rights of the weaker? You don’t do anything for all these years and the court machinery is activated by someone and then you act… and then there is absolute mayhem.. “

The HC has asked the BMC to produce the register on September 21.

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