A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by NGO ‘Pravasi Legal Cell’ seeking directions for Repatriation of dead bodies of Indian expatriates who died due to Non-COVID19 ailments.
The petitioners, “Pravasi Legal Cell” filed the PIL stating that the repatriation of dead bodies has been hindered because the Indian embassies which earlier were issuing clearance certificates, are now insisting on production of a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, even for those who have died of accidents or Non-COVID19 related ailments.
It was highlighted in the petition that the mortal remains of the Indian citizens whose death occurred abroad due to reasons other than COVID-19 infection where brought into India without any problem through Cargo planes till 21.04.2020.
As per the prevailing practice, to repatriate the mortal remains of the Indian expatriates died outside India, a ‘clearance certificate’ from the Indian Embassy/High Commission in the concerned country is required to process the application for the same. The petitioner said on an unusual practice happened recently, that the Embassies are insisting on production of a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi even for those who died of accidents or Non-COVID-19 ailments over and above the existing rules to repatriate.
Its further submitted that even the individual airlines have now been instructed that the immigration clearance for dead bodies have been suspended alongside closing of immigration check posts at the Airports and even the Airlines are forced to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs for obtaining separate permission to carry the mortal remains into India which is not only is a cumbersome process but would also lead to hesitation from the Airlines to transport mortal remains in the near future.
“even though the Government of India having clarified that the mortal remains of the Indian Citizens died abroad not due to Covid-19 infection can be brought back to India, this unusual process of demanding no-objection certificate would makes the entire repatriation a tedious process, as a result of this, a number of bodies of Indian citizens who died of Non- Covid aliments are lying abandoned in airports especially in GCC countries like Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia. It is also pertinent to mention that even the World Health Organization (WHO) time and again has categorically clarified that a belief that copses pose a major healthcare risk is inaccurate”, mentioned in the petition.
The petitioner also states examples by saying that a person expired at Kuwait Cancer Centre due to sudden cardiac arrest and another expired at Al-Adan Hospital in Kuwait due to bleeding in brain as result of high blood pressure. In both the cases, the Ministry of Public Health, Kuwait, registered the death, respectively and subsequently Embalmment certificate of body to India was also issued by Ministry of Public Health, State of Kuwait. After all the compliances, the dead bodies were to be brought to Chennai International Airport in Qatar Airways Cargo plane but the Embassy of India in Kuwait was not issuing ‘clearance certificate’ in absence of No-objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India New Delhi.
As per the observations of the petitioner, instant denial of No- objection certificate by the Ministry of Home Affairs has come out of a sudden and is jolt to the Indian NRI fraternity especially in Gulf Co- operation Council (GCC) countries as there was no prior notification or direction released by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the basis of which this embassy/ Indian consulate is denting permission for repatriation of dead bodies, thus it is also a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
In view of the above, the Chief Minister of Kerala and other Members of Parliament from Kerala had urged the Prime Minister and the concerned Ministries to take appropriate action urgently to ensure that there is no delay in bringing back the mortal remains of Indian citizens died abroad enabling the family members to perform the last rites.
Therefore, the petitioner seeks direction to the Government of India to withdraw instructions issued to the Indian Embassies/High Commissions abroad and the Airlines seeking production of no objection certificate to bring back the bodies of the Indian citizens whose death occurred abroad due to reasons other than COVID-19 infection.
-India Legal Bureau