Supreme Court of India
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Allow mortal remains of Indian expats who died of non-COVID-19 causes to be brought back without MHA NOC: Plea in Supreme Court

The plea states that bodies of Indian expatriates who died due to causes other than COVID-19 cannot be brought back to India, as Indian Embassies are insisting on NOCs issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Debayan Roy

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court raising the concern of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) corpses lying abandoned in foreign airports, after Indian Embassies have started demanding a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) even for non-COVID-19 deaths.

Filed by rights organisation Pravasi Legal Cell through Advocate Jose Abraham, the petition states that such bodies of Indian expatriates - especially from Gulf countries like Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia - who died due to causes other than COVID-19, cannot be brought back to India.

"Indian embassies which earlier were issuing clearance certificates, are now insisting on production of a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, even for those who have died of accidents or Non-COVID19 related ailment.'

The plea states that the mortal remains of these Indian citizens were being brought into India without any problem through cargo planes till April 21, 2020.

The petitioner further states that the individual airlines have now been instructed that "the immigration clearance for dead bodies have been suspended alongside closing of immigration check posts on March 23 at the Airports". The plea goes on to state,

"It is also reported that even the Airlines are forced to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs for obtaining separate permission to carry the mortal remains into India. This is not only is a cumbersome process but would also lead to hesitation from the Airlines to transport mortal remains in the near future."

Some of the cases cited in the plea are that of one Varghese Philip, who passed away on April 16 at Kuwait Cancer Centre due to sudden cardiac arrest, and that of one Vinod MV, who expired at Al-Adan Hospital in Kuwait due to bleeding in brain as result of high blood pressure.

In both the cases, the Ministry of Public Health, Kuwait, registered the deaths on April 18 and 21 respectively, and subsequently, embalmment certificates of the bodies were also issued.

After all the compliances, the dead bodies were to be brought to Chennai International Airport through a Qatar Airways cargo plane. However, the Embassy of India in Kuwait is not issuing ‘clearance certificate’ in absence of a no-objection certificate from the MHA, says the plea.

The petitioner organisation has prayed for the Court to set aside such instructions issued to the Indian Embassies/High Commissions abroad and to the airlines seeking production of no-objection certificates.

Further indulgence of the Court has been requested to permit cargo planes to bring back mortal remains of Indian expatriates who died of causes other than COVID-19, without insisting on the MHA's no-objection certificate.

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