"In the considered opinion of the Court, the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial." observed the division bench of Madras High Court, India.
The High Court took cognisance of a news item on how the burial of a doctor who succumbed to death, his ongoing health problems having been aggravated by Covid-19, invited mass opposition, and created a law and order situation. The Court issued notice to the State on the issue of the right to burial being guaranteed under Article 21. "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 ad public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grievous injuries", the Court observed.
The news item that was taken judicial notice of, showed that a 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 cemetery. The residents of the area assembled in large number and opposed the burial of the body. "As a consequence, the body had to be taken to [another place] 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 made reference to the 1963 case of Kharak Singh, where the Apex Court considered the scope of right to life under Article 21 of Indian Constitution- "[…] 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 communicated with the outer world".
Reference was also made to section 297, Penal Code 1860 which prescribes punishment for trespass on burial places- "Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sepulture, or any place set apart for 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."
Compiled by Law Desk (SOURCE: LIVELAW.IN)