New Delhi, Mar 18 (ILNS) The Delhi High Court today directed a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs to follow up with the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of Embassy of Saudi Arabia here (India), in order to expedite the process of exhuming the mortal remains of a Hindu man, who was wrongly buried in Saudi Arabia.
Justice Pratibha Singh, while hearing the plea of Anju Sharma, the widow of deceased Sanjeev Kumar, who was wrongly buried in Saudi Arabia, though he was a Hindu, observed that since the mortal remains are in a foreign country, no specific timeline can be given, but the MEA should co-ordinate with the Saudi authorities and expedite the matter.
“In view of the fact that the MEA official appearing today cannot provide a timeline, but emphasis has to be placed on the sensitivity of the issue and the MEA official should also coordinate with the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of Saudi Arabian Embassy and request for a timeline,” Justice Prathiba Singh said.
The petitioner alleged that the remains of her Hindu husband, an Indian citizen, were wrongly buried in Saudi Arabia as per Muslim rites, due to incorrect translation of his religion on the death certificate by Indian Consulate officials in Jeddah.
Vishnu Kumar Sharma, Director of Consular, Passport & Visa (CPV) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), appearing before the court, informed that the death of the petitioner’s husband occurred on January 24, 2021 and the death certificate was obtained by the employer of the deceased. The translation of the death certificate was done by the employer, in which the error appeared.
According to Vishnu Sharma, usually, whenever the Saudi authorities are informed of the death of an Indian citizen, a particular protocol is to be followed, in which unless and until a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is issued by the Indian Consulate, the body is not buried by the local authorities. However in the present case, the burial took place without informing the Indian consulate on February 17, 2021. Immediately thereafter, when the consulate was informed of the burial, it took steps by writing communication on February 21 and 24, 2021.
He submitted that the Indian MEA officials, as also the consulate in Jeddah, are in continuous touch with the Saudi Authorities for expediting the exhuming of mortal remains of the deceased and for transportation to India. He assured the court that the follow up will be made continuously with the said authorities to expedite the same, however considering the fact that the mortal remains are in a foreign country, no specific timeline can be given, as it depends on the response given by the Saudi Authorities.
It was further submitted before the court that the employer has deposited some compensation/monetary payment for the family of the deceased, which has been deposited with the bank account of the Indian Consulate in Jeddah. The payment of the same has been couriered to the District Collector in Una, Himachal Pradesh, where the family of the deceased is living. The details of the said payment, which has been dispatched by the courier, will be given to the counsel of petitioner by tomorrow.
“The fact that the deceased was buried in a non-Muslim graveyard, the local authorities were aware that the deceased was not a Muslim,” countering the claims made by the petitioner that the Saudi authorities interpreted that the deceased was a Muslim, said Vishnu Sharma.
Mr Sharma also told the court that all possible efforts are being made to expedite the process of bringing back the mortal remains of the said person.
The court, while fixing the matter for further hearing on March 24, asked the Consulate to assist the family of the deceased on the subject of benefits available to them. The said direction came in, after the court was informed by the senior MEA official that a monetary compensation amounting to Rs 4.68 lakh would be given to the family of petitioner by the Commissioner, as per the procedure.
On the previous date of hearing, the bench had directed a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to be present before it. Justice Singh had said the woman has been running from pillar to post, since the passing of her husband, and necessary steps ought to have been taken to bring back the body of the deceased to India, to conduct the last rites.
The plea filed by Anju Sharma claimed that her husband Sanjeev Kumar, passed away due to cardiac arrest in Saudi Arabia, where he was working, on January 24 this year. She further claimed that after hearing the news, a request was made by the family members to repatriate the mortal remains.
However, on February 18, the family was informed that the body of Kumar has been buried in Saudi Arabia, while the family members were awaiting the mortal remains in India, the plea claimed. The petitioner apprised the court that they were informed by the Indian Consulate there that an unfortunate mistake happened due to a translation error committed by the officials in Jeddah, wherein the late man’s religion was translated as ‘Muslim’. ILNS/ANB/SNG/RJ