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SC acknowledges cremation of COVID deceased as serious problem, directs petitioner to approach NHRC

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New Delhi, Jun 28 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today directed the petitioner to approach the National Human Rights Council (NHRC) in a plea seeking direction for framing of policy to protect the rights of the dead, including control on overcharging for ambulance services and cremation and burial of those who died of COVID-19.

Noting the fact that it is a serious problem, the Bench of Justices Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta advised the petitioner to approach the NHRC.

“You’ve referred to some recommendations of NHRC. You go to the NHRC. How many forums will you approach? You have already been to High Court, NHRC has interfered,” the Court observed.

Referring to the reports about several bodies found floating in river Ganga, the plea said the Centre should be directed to advise all states and Union Territories (UTs) to frame guidelines prescribing rates for cremation or burial of those who have died due to the deadly virus and also for ambulance services along with penal actions for non-compliance at the earliest.

“It is deeply depressing to see people putting bodies of their beloved ones in rivers like Ganga due to lack of money. It is primarily due to the exorbitant amount asked for cremation and ambulance services that scores of people decided to put the bodies of their beloved in the river Ganga,” the petition claimed.

It said the National Human Rights Commission issued an advisory recently for upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead. The plea alleged that no cogent action has been taken by the authority to tackle the issue of “undue profiteering by unscrupulous caretakers at crematoriums because of which, many are unable to cremate or bury their beloved.

The plea referred to earlier verdicts of the apex court, which said the dignity of the dead must be maintained and respected.

“There is a dire need to enact specific legislation that protects the rights of the dead, and there is also a need for issuance of guidelines to all states and UTs to prescribe rates for cremations and ambulance services, along with penal actions for non-compliance at the earliest,” it said.

The petitioner had earlier approached the Delhi High Court, raising the issue of overcharging for cremation and ambulance services in the national capital. It said the High Court had on May 6, given liberty to the petitioner to approach appropriate representation to the municipal corporations concerned and the civic bodies were asked to decide it in accordance with the law.

The petitioner NGO alleged that it had submitted a representation to all the municipal corporations on May, 11 but none of them have even acknowledged its receipt so far. The plea said the petitioner had also sent a representation to the Centre with a request to take urgent steps to enact a law that ensures the dignity of the dead, along with guidelines to the states and UTs to control exorbitant charges for cremation and ambulance services. ILNS/ABV/KR/SNG/RJ

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