Madras High Court
Madras High Court
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"Article 21 includes right to decent burial", Madras HC registers suo motu PIL after mob obstructs burial of Doctor who died from COVID-19

"In the considered opinion of the Court the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial", the Bench observed.

Meera Emmanuel

After a mob of local people obstructed the burial of a doctor who died from COVID-19, the Madras High Court on Monday registered a suo motu PIL over the issue, asserting that Article 21 of the Constitution also entails the right to have a decent burial.

While recounting that the Supreme Court itself has opined that the right to life under Article 21 cannot be restricted to a mere animal existence, and that it means more that just physical survival, the Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and M Nirmal Kumar observed

"In the considered opinion of the Court the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial."
Madras High Court

The Court was prompted to make the assertion while recounting the manner in which the burial of doctor was obstructed by a mob on fears that it would spread the virus.

As per reports, 55-year old Dr Simon, the Managing Director of New Hope Hospital in Chennai, passed away at Apollo Hospital on Sunday, possibly after having contracted the COVID-19 infection from a patient.

Efforts to bury him at an earmarked plot in Kilpauk were reportedly met with resistance from a mob of around 100 persons. The mob is said to have attacked the persons who had accompanied to carry out the burial, including the staff in the ambulance. The doctor was later buried late at night, after calls were made to the Health Ministry.

The High Court on Monday noted that, "It prima facie appears that as a consequence of the above 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 decent burial, in a cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of a law and oder and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared to have sustained grievous injuries."

The Court went on to add,

"Citizens are not expected to take law and order into their own hands and if it is so, (it) would definitely lead to anarchy. There is likelihood of similar kind of incidents to occur in future also."
Madras High Court

Therefore, the Bench proceeded to issue notice in public interest to State of the Tamil Nadu, its Health Department and allied authorities, the Chennai Corporation Commissioner and state Police authorities.

While doing so, the Court also pointed out that the Union Health Ministry has also issued guidelines to combat the social stigma attached to COVID-19, and further that these guidelines are available in the public domain and on social media. The Court added that people are expected to be aware of these guidelines as issued from time to time.

The matter will be taken up next on April 28.

[Read the Order]

Suo motu PIL - Madras HC - April 20.pdf
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