Bombay HC Rejects Petitions That Sought Ban On Burial Of COVID Victims In Bandra Cemetery

The Bombay High Court on Friday rejected a petition that sought a ban on the burial of COVID19 victims in Bandra cemeteries. 

The petition filed by Pradeep Gandhy and others who were local residents claimed that there would be community spread of the virus if the bodies are not properly disposed of. In response, the BMC in an affidavit said that dead bodies do not transmit the COVID disease. The affidavit was submitted on Tuesday before a bench headed by the Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and said the World Health Organisation had issued guidelines dealing with infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body infected with the coronavirus.

"The guidelines clearly stipulate that except in cases of haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola virus and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious. Only lungs of patients with pandemic influenza, if handled improperly during an autopsy, can be infectious," the affidavit said.

It added that till date there was no evidence of any person getting infected with COVID-19 from a dead body and hence the contentions raised by the petitioners is lacking any scientific basis and entirely erroneous, misconceived and baseless.

It further pointed out a separate area has been earmarked in Bandra Kabrastan for burial of COVID-19 bodies, and this was at the far end of the ground and away from nearby residential colonies.

"Disposal of dead bodies infected with COVID-19 is done in the safest and most hygienic way possible without causing any threat, danger to residents of the vicinity and all guidelines and precautions are followed," the affidavit said.

"Even the family members of such victims are not allowed to touch the body, they are only allowed to see the deceased," Sakhre submitted. The contentions of these residents were further opposed by the trustees of the Qabristan. Their counsel told the bench that due diligence was being carried out while burying the dead bodies.

The counsel also argued that the residents have failed to place on record any scientific material to show that the virus spreads through dead bodies. He also cited the circular of the Union government, issued last month, which pertained to disposal of dead bodies of coronavirus victims. "The circular specifically states that the virus spreads only through droplets. It also states that if proper precautions are taken then there are no risks of the virus transmitting from the dead body," the counsel submitted.

Notably, the local residents had locked up the Qabristan on April 13 and disallowed the civic body to bury a Covid-19 victim. However, another bench of Justice Burgess Colabawalla had last month ordered the officials to break open the locks and bury Covid-19 victims in the cemetery.

-India Legal Bureau