Supreme Court urged to protect patients’ right to dignified death, burial

Ashwani Kumar highlights undignified disposal of bodies

June 11, 2020 03:00 am | Updated 03:00 am IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

Former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has written to the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of news reports on the undignified treatment and disposal of the bodies of COVID-19 patients, saying the acts amounted to a “grave infraction of the citizen’s right to die with dignity”.

Mr. Kumar, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, said the fundamental right to die with dignity embraces the right to decent burial or cremation.

He referred to a recent report on an elderly patient in Madhya Pradesh having been “chained” to a hospital bed.

Also read: In Chennai, doctor’s burial marred by protests, attacks

“The tragic and condemnable sight of a COVID-19 patient being chained to a bed in a hospital in Madhya Pradesh and another sight in Puducherry of a dead body being thrown in a pit for burial have shocked the conscience of the Republic committed to human dignity under the Constitution, which recognises dignity as a core constitutional value at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of non-negotiable constitutional rights,” Mr. Kumar wrote in his letter to the Chief Justice of India and judges of the Supreme Court.

Also read:Narayanasamy expresses regret over undignified burial of COVID-19 patient

He highlighted the reports of the bodies “piling up” in hospitals and mortuaries in the capital. “Notified protocols for cremation in the capital city, reported piling up of bodies in hospitals and mortuaries, non-availability of adequate cremation/burial grounds and the reported non-functioning of electric crematoriums constitute... an unacceptable violation of the right to die with dignity,” Mr. Kumar wrote.

The senior advocate reminded the court that it was its duty to enforce the law declared by it in past judgments.

“It is requested that the court take suo motu notice of the matter in view of the shocking infraction of the fundamental right to dignity,” the letter said.

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