Delhi

Delhi HC seeks AAP govt stand on NGO’s offer to cremate those who die of coronavirus

Relatives wearing protective gear tie up the dead body of a victim who died from the coronavirus before the burial at a graveyard in New Delhi on May 10, 2020.

Relatives wearing protective gear tie up the dead body of a victim who died from the coronavirus before the burial at a graveyard in New Delhi on May 10, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The Bench also gave the Delhi government time till June 29 to file an updated status report in the PIL initiated by the court on its own after coming across news reports about the lack of facilities to cremate those who have died of coronavirus and that such bodies were piling up in the mortuaries

The Delhi High Court Monday sought response of the AAP government on a plea by an NGO, which operates green crematoriums in Delhi, offering its facilities to cremate the bodies of those who have died of coronavirus.

A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on the NGO’s plea by June 29.

The Bench also gave the Delhi government time till June 29 to file an updated status report in the PIL initiated by the court on its own after coming across news reports about the lack of facilities to cremate those who have died of COVID-19 and that such bodies were piling up in the mortuaries.

An anguished high court had said if this was the correct situation then it was “highly dissatisfactory and violative of the rights of the dead“.

 

Apart from the NGO’s plea, the Bench also took up another petition filed by a lawyer, seeking contempt action against the AAP government and medical director of LNJP Hospital for not adhering to the undertaking given to high court on handling of bodies of COVID-19 patients.

The high court adjourned that matter after Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain and additional Delhi government standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose, appearing for the health department, said the issue of disposal of COVID-19 bodies has been taken up suo motu (on its own) by the Supreme Court where they have to file a reply.

The Bench listed all three matters on June 29.

The NGO, ‘Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti’, said in its plea filed through advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal that it has installed 16 green crematoriums in Delhi out of which six are at the Nigam Bodh ghat and they can handle 24 cremations per day.

The contempt plea has been moved by advocate Avadh Kaushik, who has alleged that the bodies of the dead are lying in the same wards and corridors of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi, where COVID-19 patients are being admitted and kept.

The plea has said the officials have breached their own undertaking regarding bodies of COVID-19 patients since they have repeatedly assured the court that no bodies are lying in the ward and corridors of the hospital.

The Delhi government on June 2 had told the court that its health department has issued an order on May 30 with regard to disposal of the bodies of those who died of COVID-19 and it was being adhered to.

The May 30 order of the Health department has fixed the responsibility, for timely disposal of the COVID-19 positive/suspect dead bodies, on the Medical Director/ Director of the hospital where a patient died or was brought dead.

“Respective municipal corporation shall make all the arrangements to cremate/bury such dead bodies,” the order also said.

Some other directions contained in the order are that body of a COVID-19 positive/suspect patient be sent to mortuary within 2 hours of death in a hospital, or brought dead there, and if family or relatives of the deceased contact the mortuary within 12 hours, the hospital shall schedule the cremation/burial within next 24 hours.

If no family member or relative gets in touch with mortuary in 12 hours, an intimation shall be sent to them through the area SHO regarding the date, time and place of cremation/burial so that they can attend the funeral.

“The hospital must fix date and time in such a way that an effective notice of 24 hours is available to family/relatives,” the department’s order also said.

In case of unidentified bodies of COVID positive/suspect persons, Delhi Police has been directed by the health department to complete all legal formalities within 72 hours of death and dispose of the body in next 24 hours.

On May 29, the Delhi government had informed the court that urgent steps were taken to remedy the situation, including that LNJP Hospital being authorised to divert bodies to crematoriums at Panchkuian and Punjab Bagh, as opposed to only Nigambodh Ghat.

The Delhi government had also told the court that it has now authorised wood-fired traditional cremations, in addition to electric and CNG furnaces, providing personal protection (PPE) kits for all workers at crematorium and bodies and the working hours of crematoriums are extended to 7 a.m.-10 p.m. from the existing 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

It had further said that the situation, based on which the court had initiated the suo motu proceedings, was a result of unavoidable circumstances like reduced capacity of Nigambodh Ghat to handle bodies on account of snags in furnaces, workers at crematorium refusing to handle COVID-19 deceased, sudden spike in coronavirus cases and related deaths in Delhi and relatives refusing to come forward to claim bodies.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 4:20:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/hc-seeks-aap-govt-stand-on-ngos-offer-to-cremate-those-who-die-of-coronavirus/article31832115.ece

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