Bombay HC Upholds Deceased's Right to Dignified Last Rites Amid PIL for Additional Burial Grounds

Bombay HC Upholds Deceased's Right to Dignified Last Rites Amid PIL for Additional Burial Grounds

The Bombay High Court emphasized the significance of affording a deceased individual a dignified and respectful final farewell, equating it to other fundamental rights. This observation was made during a PIL hearing that requested additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs of Mumbai.

Exasperated, the High Court questioned whether sending people to Mars for burial should even be considered, highlighting the urgency of the situation. It pointed out that since November, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has failed to locate a suitable plot for a burial ground.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice D K Upadhyaya and Justice Amit Borkar strongly criticized the BMC for its indifferent attitude towards addressing the pressing need for additional burial grounds in the eastern suburbs, a matter that has remained unaddressed for over two years.

The bench underscored that the municipal corporation holds a statutory duty and obligation to ensure the provision of a suitable place for the respectful disposal of the deceased. They emphasized that civic authorities cannot evade their responsibility in this matter.

"The right of a dead person to a decent and respectful last rite is as important as other fundamental rights," it observed.

In a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by three Govandi residents—Shamsher Ahmed, Abrar Chaudhari, and Abdul Rehman Shah—seeking additional burial grounds for Mumbai's eastern suburbs, the court was apprised of the situation. The petition outlined three proposed locations for a burial ground: one adjacent to an existing site in Deonar, another behind Rafiq Nagar (formerly a dumping ground), and a third approximately 8 km away from Govandi's main population center in Anik village, which is adjacent to a Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) refinery. However, the BMC had previously informed the court that neither the Deonar site nor the Rafiq Nagar area was deemed suitable for a burial ground.

The bench then quipped if people should go to Mars for burial. "Then they should go to Mars? Since November you have not been able to find a plot. Where will the dead go now?" CJ Upadhyaya said.

The court highlighted that it has consistently issued orders to expedite the availability of plots at the three proposed sites for burial purposes. However, it expressed disappointment over the apparent lack of cooperation from BMC authorities. In response, the bench has directed the BMC commissioner to personally intervene in the matter and instruct relevant officers to explore alternative land options within a 3-kilometer radius of Rafiq Nagar for use as a burial ground.

"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.

The High Court posted the matter for further hearing on June 21.


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