Corpn. moves HC against exhuming surgeon’s body

The Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner has preferred an appeal against an order passed by a single judge of the Madras High Court on March 31 directing him to arrange for exhuming the body of a neurosurgeon who died of COVID-19 in April 2020 as his body was buried at a cemetery at Velangadu near New Avadi Road much against the wishes of his wife.

The High Court had ordered that the body should be exhumed and buried again at the Christian cemetery in Kilpauk following an appeal filed by his wife.

The writ appeal has been listed for admission before a Division Bench of Justices M.M. Sundresh and R.N. Manjula on Thursday.

Justice Abdul Quddhose had issued the direction last month on a writ petition filed by the neurosurgeon’s wife. The petitioner had complained that her husband’s body could not be buried at the Kilpauk cemetery as per their religious practice because of some anti-social elements opposing the burial and indulging in violence. Hence, the body was shunted from one cemetery to another and finally got buried in a place used by people of other faith.

She insisted on exhuming the body from Velangadu and re-burying it at Kilpauk. However, the Corporation opposed her plea vehemently and contended that the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines did not specify the circumstances under which a body of a COVID-19 victim could be exhumed.

It was brought to the notice of the court that an expert committee, comprising various health experts, had opined against exhuming the body. The Corporation had relied upon bylaws framed under Section 349(22)(a) of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act of 1919 and claimed that a grave could be opened only 14 years after burial of a body and therefore, the petitioner’s plea for reopening the grave within a year could not be acceded to. The civic body feared that accepting the petitioner’s request might open a Pandora’s box with similar requests by many.

However, the single judge had rejected all contentions and held that there was a legislative vacuum in the country on the aspect of exhuming bodies that had been buried in inappropriate places and ensuring a decent re-burial after performing all religious obsequies as desired by the family members of the deceased. He said a constitutional court could fill the gap as an interim arrangement until the legislature fills the vacuum.

The judge agreed with the petitioner’s counsel S. Elambharathi that there was absolutely no medical evidence anywhere in the world of a person having got infected with coronavirus after being exposed to the body of a person who had died due to COVID-19.

Neither the WHO nor the Centre had spoken about the infection spreading from dead bodies, he said and directed the Commissioner to exhume the body and re-bury it by following all safety norms.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 12:51:59 AM |

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