Guidelines for dignified disposal of dead bodies: Calcutta High Court

Guidelines for dignified disposal of dead bodies: Calcutta High Court

The High Court of Calcutta has issued the guidelines for the proper disposal of the dead bodies of Covid-19 victims, including those who have the access to the bodies.

The PIL was filed that stated such grievances over the manner in which the State Government was seeing the pandemic situation.

The petition stated four issues:
  • Unceremonious and undignified disposal of dead bodies of persons inflicted with COVID-19
  • Not allowing relatives and friends of COVID infected persons to have a last look at or to pay last respect to the mortal remains and to perform the last rites.
  • No proper reporting of COVID-19 cases or COVID-19 deaths.
  • Publishing District wise lists containing names of all persons infected with COVID-19.

A bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee issued the following guidelines, in accordance with the guidelines on dead body management in the COVID-19 issued on March0-15 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare;

  • When post mortem of the dead body is not required, the dead body shall be handed over to the immediate next of kin of the deceased i.e. the parents/surviving spouse/children, after completion of hospital formalities.
  • The body should be secured in a body bag, the face end of which should be preferably transparent and the exterior of which will be appropriately sanitized/decontaminated so as to eliminate/minimize the risk to the people transporting the dead body.
  • The people handling the dead body shall take standard precautions, e.g., surgical mask, gloves, etc. If available and possible, PPE should be used.
  • The vehicle carrying the dead body to the crematorium/burial ground will be suitably decontaminated
  • The staff of the crematorium/burial ground should be sensitized that the bodies of COVID-19 victims do not pose additional risk. They will practice standard precautions.
  • The face end of the body bag may be unzipped by the staff at the crematorium/burial ground to allow the relatives to see the body for one last time. At this time, religious rituals, such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water, offering grains, and such other last rites that do not require touching of the body, should be allowed.
  • After the cremation/burial, the family members and the staff of the crematorium/burial ground should appropriately sanitize themselves.
  • As a social distancing measures should be followed. Large gatherings at the crematorium/burial ground should be avoided.
  • The persons handling the dead body shall go directly from the hospitals to the crematorium/burial ground, as the case may be, and not to anywhere else including the home of the deceased where he/she last resided.
  • In case the body of a COVID-19 infected deceased is unclaimed, the same shall be cremated/buried as the case may be with due dignity, at State expense.
The High Court said that under Article 21 of the Constitution a person not only has the right to life and liberty but also to his mortal remains after his demise.

The Bench further remarked,

“We also agree that the near and dear ones of a deceased person who had contracted Covid-19 should have an opportunity to have a final look at the human remains of the person and to pay their last respect and homage to the departed soul.”

The notification provided by the Government dated June 6, 2020, said that the family members of the deceased to see the mortal remains and pay their respects.

Click to read the order: 


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