Dead also have fundamental right to dignity under Article 21: Bombay High Court

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Dead too have fundamental right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Bombay High Court emphasised on Tuesday while expressing its displeasure at the shortage of space for burial grounds in suburban Mumbai.

A division bench of Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor was miffed at the lackadaisical attitude of the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in this regard.

“You need to take care of the dead as much as the alive. They have a right under Article 21 of the Constitution to be buried with dignity. If dead bodies are coming up, can you understand what it means? Such lackadaisical attitude in this matter, both by BMC and the State cannot be condoned. Do you need court orders in such matters? This should have been done by you. You should have been alive to such issues,” the Court said.

The Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking additional burial grounds for people in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai.

The High Court highlighted that for a municipal body as well as the State, there cannot be any engagement more urgent than finding appropriate space for burial.

“Under the law, there is a duty cast upon the municipal commissioner to provide an appropriate place for disposal of the dead. It is mandatory for the commissioner to find another place,” the bench said.

Advocate Altaf Khan for petitioners submitted that burial grounds allotted to localities in Deonar and Rafiq Nagar were closed as bodies were not getting decomposed.

The bench directed the State Urban Development Department to give reasons as to why the Deonar burial ground had not been allotted for construction of an additional cemetery.

The Court also called for an affidavit setting out steps that the State and civic authorities were taking to ensure adequate space for dignified last rites of the dead.

The PIL will be heard next on September 5.

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