A full bench of the Madras High Court Thursday ruled that residents of Tamil Nadu, whether living in cities, or in rural areas should bury the dead only at designated burial sites even though the Tamil Nadu Village Panchayats (Provision of Burial and Burning Grounds) Rules, 1999 (1999 Rules) does not impose any such restriction on burials..A bench of Justices R Mahadevan, G Jayachandran, and Mohammed Shaffiq passed the order after the issue was referred to them by a division bench last month. In June this year, a division bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice PD Audikesavalu had asked the larger bench to examine the following question:"Whether, under the Rules of 1999, the burial can take place at a place other than the designated land, more particularly when the designated land exists in the village?"The larger bench said it has "answered the reference in the negative," and thus, no burial can take place at spots other than designated burial sites in the State..It further said that in case the dead are buried at places other than designated sites, they must be exhumed and buried at the designated place, considering the issue of public health.The cost for exhuming and burying such dead bodies at the designated sites will have to be borne by the concerned family, the larger bench said..The judgment came on a petition filed by one Jagadheeswari challenging a previous order to exhume and relocate the remains of her deceased husband from its current burial site on private land owned by another person to a designated burial site. The division bench had noted on April 24 that single-judge Justice M Dhandapani of the Madras High Court had previously held that the act of burying the dead body in a place not designated for the said purpose could not be allowed.The single-judge had, therefore, directed that the remains of Jagadheeswari's deceased husband's body be exhumed and buried at a designated burial site..However, the counsel for Jagadheeswari, advocate NGR Prasad, told the division bench that the provisions of the 1999 Rules and the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994 did not contain any prohibition on burying the dead in any place other than a licensed or designated burial ground.He cited an October 2022 order by another division bench of the Madras High Court in P Muthusamy v The District Collector wherein the Court had held that there was no bar on burials in places other than designated sites. This contention was challenged by senior counsel, V Raghavachari, who appeared for one BB Naidu, the petitioner in the original petition before the single-judge..Raghavachari told the division bench that on a reading of Rule 5 read with Rule 7 of the 1999 Rules, one would realise that burials can take place only at licensed or designated burial grounds. In support of this position, he also referred to various other case-laws from the Madras High Court and one from the Kerala High Court.The bench led by CJ Gangapurwala noted that the division bench in P Muthusamy's case did not specifically refer to Rules 5 and 4 of the 1999 Rules, even though it has extensively discussed and interpreted Rule 7 of the said Rules. As such, the division bench opined that the interpretation in P Muthusamy's case required reconsideration.The matter then came to be heard by the full bench while ruled against burial at non-designated sites.