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Health should precede religious rights of deceased: Plea in SC to halt burial in 3 Mumbai cemeteries on fear of COVID-19 spread from soil

On April 27, the Bombay High Court had refused to grant relief on this plea challenging the BMC's permission to use Bandra west cemeteries to bury bodies of COVID-19 victims.

Debayan Roy

A Mumbai resident from the “densely populated area” of Bandra (West) has moved the Supreme Court against a Bombay High Court order of April 27 rejecting the prayer to stay burial at three cemetaries near his residence as the petitioner fears the spread of COVID-19 through the buried bodies.

The petitioner, Pradeep Gandhy, through Advocate Udayaditya Banerjee, has moved the Supreme Court stating that the “present unprecedented health situation ought to take precedence over the religious rights of the deceased’s family members.”

On April 27,the Bombay High Court had refused to grant relief on this plea challenging the BMC's permission to use Bandra west cemetaries to bury bodies of COVID-19 victims.

Justice BP Colabwalla of the Bombay HC had heard the plea of the petitioner who resides in close proximity to the Konkani Muslim Kabrastan in suburban Bandra.

Gandhy claimed that locals were afraid of community spread of the virus if the burial is not done properly.

The Bombay High Court, however, directed the BMC to remove, with the help of local police, the three locks put up on the gates of the cemetery ground by local residents. The locks were put up on April 13 after they held a protest against the burial of a dead body at the cemetery ground.

The three burial grounds in question are the Ward Konkani Muslim Cemetery No. 80, Khoja Sunnat Jamat Kabrastan Bandra West and KhojaIsna Ashari Jammat Kabrastan Bandra West.

The plea in the Supreme Court states that the area is one of the most densely populated areas in the city of Mumbai, having a population of about 3,30,000 people with a density per kilometer of almost 29,000 people.

Contending that there are other burial grounds where burial could take place to avoid Bandra West, the petitioner had stated that “present unprecedented health situation ought to take precedence over the religious rights of the deceased’s family members seeking to bury the deceased at the subject cemeteries.

"In the context of shifting of graves of muslims D vis a vis their right to religion under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution, this Hon’ble Court has consistently reiterated the fact that such right must be subject to public order and health of the larger community."

states the plea.

The petition notes that there is no study or research to say with certainty that the infection would not spread from the buried infected bodies through the soil and underground water to the neighboring areas.

Gandhy also states that though there may be no scientific basis to the contrary, “it is precautionary in nature and imperative to be 'safe rather than sorry' in extraordinary times such as the present situation where there is no cure to the disease.

The plea seeks a stay on the April 27 order of the Bombay High Court and a stay over the burial process at the three mentioned cemeteries.

Read the Petition:

PRADEEP GANDHY SLP SCAN-compressed.pdf
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