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Plea against burial in 3 Mumbai cemeteries on fear of COVID-19 spread from soil: Supreme Court asks Bombay HC to decide within 2 weeks

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court today asked the Bombay High Court to finally decide within two weeks on the plea to stay burials at three cemeteries in Bandra (West) on fears that COVID-19 may spread through the buried bodies.

The petitioner, Pradeep Gandhy, through Advocate Udayaditya Banerjee, had 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.”

Gandhy, a resident from the “densely populated area” of Bandra (West) had thereby challenged a Bombay High Court order of April 27 rejecting his prayer at the interim stage.

The matter came up this morning before a Bench of Justices RF Nariman and Indira Banerjee.

The Supreme Court today orally observed that since the impugned order was passed at an interim stage, and in the absence of any reporter or affidavit filed by the State or Mumbai Municipal Corporation, it would be proper to ask the High Court to decide on the matter within two weeks.

The petition had stated 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.

The petitioner added 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.

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 the 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.

After the Bombay High Court's interim order declining to stay the burial was challenged in the Supreme Court, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind filed an intervention application asserting that there can be no stay as sought for by the petitioner since burial is integral to the Muslim religion.

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