Rajasthan Assembly passes Bill prohibiting protests with corpses

The Rajasthan Honour of Dead Body Bill, 2023 seeks to ensure that every dead person has the right to last rites with dignity

Published - July 21, 2023 01:01 am IST - JAIPUR

The Rajasthan Assembly on Thursday passed a Bill prohibiting protests by relatives of deceased persons, sitting with the bodies, on roads or public places and demanding compensation or jobs. All of this will become an offence , punishable with imprisonment of up to five years.

The Rajasthan Honour of Dead Body Bill, 2023, also seeks to ensure that every dead person has the right to last rites with dignity. Replying to the debate on the Bill in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal said the need for introducing the legislation had arisen because of an increase in the number of protests being held with bodies and protesters pressing for “unjustified demands”.

These protests, staged by relatives of the deceased following unnatural deaths, are often supported by political parties and social and community organisations. Before the Bill was passed by voice vote in the House, Mr. Dhariwal said there was no provision in the existing laws to take action against those who were “using the corpses” to put pressure on the government and the authorities.

In addition to giving dignity to “dead bodies”, the proposed legislation will work as a deterrent against the rising trend of demonstrations and help protect data relating to unclaimed bodies. Mr. Dhariwal said the Bill contained provisions for protection of genetic data information through DNA profiling as well as digitisation and confidentiality of information.

The Minister said there were 82 incidents of demonstrations and dharnas, with corpses displayed on the streets or outside the police stations, between 2014 and 2018. The figure increased to 306 between 2019 and 2023, though 91 cases were registered in the police stations, he said. Besides, as many as 3,016 corpses have so far been registered as unclaimed bodies.

The Bill imposes a liability on the family members to perform last rites of the deceased “as soon as possible” unless there are exceptional reasons. If the family members do not perform the last rites despite the orders of the local police officer or the Executive Magistrate, these will be performed by the public authority.

The Bill has laid down the punishment with imprisonment for six months, one year, two years and five years for different offences, such as refusal to take possession of a body, demonstration with a body by a family member or a person other than a family member, and giving consent for such demonstration and protest.

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