Decent, Respectful Last Rites As Important As Other Fundamental Rights: Bombay High Court

Decent, Respectful Last Rites As Important As Other Fundamental Rights: Bombay High Court

Right of the dead to be given a decent and respectful last rites is as important as other rights when he is alive, observed the Bombay High Court on Monday while rapping the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its callous approach in providing additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs for over two years.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 12:11 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

Mumbai: Right of the dead to be given a decent and respectful last rites is as important as other rights when he is alive, observed the Bombay High Court on Monday while rapping the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its callous approach in providing additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs for over two years.

“Moreover it is a statutory duty and obligation cast on the municipal corporation to provide an adequate place for disposal of dead; and the authorities of BMC cannot shirk their shoulders from such a responsibility,” a bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Amit Borkar said.

The HC heard a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by three Govandi residents, Shamsher Ahmed, Abrar Chaudhari, and Abdul Rehman Shah, seeking additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs.

PIL contended that the civic body earlier informed the HC that there were three proposed locations for a cemetery — one adjacent to an existing ground in Deonar, another behind Rafiq Nagar (a former dumping ground), and a third about eight kilometres away from Govandi's main population centre in Anik village, which is abutting the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). The plot near HPCL is owned by the Union Carbide India Ltd. / M/s. Oswal Agro Mills Ltd.

As far as the plot at Deonar is concerned, the BMC said that the same was found to be “not suitable” for burial ground. When the BMC advocate informed the HC that its officers visited two sites at Rafiq Nagar, both the sites were found unsuitable for burial ground as there was a leak from garbage, the CJ quipped, “Then they should go to Mars? Since November you have not been able to find a plot. Where will the dead go now?”

For the plot abutting HPCL, the HC was informed that since the plot belonged to a private party, it will have to be acquired. The process was initiated, and the HC, in November 2023, had asked the BMC to deposit 30% of the acquisition amount with the State. However, there has been no progress yet.

Irked with the BMC’s attitude, the HC noted in its order that it has consistently been passing orders to ensure that the plots of these three sites as made available the earliest for burial “but expected cooperation from authorities of bmc does not appear to be sight”.

The bench has asked the BMC commissioner to look into the matter “personally” and issue necessary directions to its officers with regard to finding another plot of land to be used as a burial ground within the vicinity of three kilometres of Rafiq Nagar. Also, the BMC commissioner has been asked to ensure that all steps are taken for “initiation and completion of acquisition of land which exist abutting the HPCL, for which requisite deposit is required by the state,” the bench added.

“We also call upon the BMC commissioner to file a personal affidavit by the next day of hearing indicating steps to be taken by authorities to ensure compliance of this order,” the court said while keeping the matter for hearing on June 21.

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