The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India on Saturday issued an Official Memorandum in which permission was given in respect of arrival of Dead Bodies and mortal remains of Indian Nationals transported from abroad.
Home Ministry clarifies to Bureau of Immigration that arrival of dead bodies and mortal remains of Indian nationals/OCI card holders from abroad are permitted subject to adherence of guidelines/ instructions issued by various Ministries and Government departments related with management of COVID-19 and submissions of No Objection/ Approval/ concurrence from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
In the view of the above, recently a PIL was filed before the Supreme court seeking directions to the Indian Embassies/ High Commissions abroad to issue necessary clearance for repatriation of mortal remains of Indian citizens died abroad due to reasons other than COVID-19 infection without seeking individual approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The plea was filed by Pravasi Legal Cell to draw the attention of Supreme Court on an emergent concern of the Non Resident Indian (NRI) community regarding the process of repatriation of dead bodies of Indian expatriates who died due to accident or Non-COVID19 ailments which 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.
The dead body human remains of a person who may have died abroad of a disease may be brought into India subject to the provisions of rules 43 to 47 of The Aircraft (Public health) Rules, 1954.
The aforesaid rules provides for the following:-
Rule 43 says -The consignee as well as the air transport service shall give to the Health Officer of the airport of arrival advance intimation of at least 48 hours, of the importation of the dead body or human remains or ashes of cremated bodies:
Rule 44- Applications to bring dead bodies or human remains or ashes of cremated bodies to India shall be made to the Indian Diplomatic representatives in countries where such representatives are functioning 23 or where there is no such representative, to the Health Officer of the airport at which the dead body is to be landed.
Rule 45- If the dead body or human remains have been properly cremated the cremated ashes shall be placed in an urn or casket having an outer packing of suitable material.
Rule 46- A certificate issued by a responsible Municipal or Governmental authority of the country from where the package containing the deadbody, or human remains or ashes of cremated bodies, as the case may be is imported and endorsed by the Indian Diplomatic Representatives, if any, in that country shall accompany the package. The certificate shall give the full name of the deceased, his age at the time of death and the place, date and cause of death and shall indicate that the package 24 conforms to and has been sealed in accordance with the specifications prescribed in rule 45.
Rule 47- The package containing the dead body or human remains or ashes of cremated bodies shall not be opened during its transit and shall be in a sound sealed condition at the time of arrival. It shall not be removed from the precincts of the airport until the Health Officer has permitted in writing its removal. After the Health Officer has accorded this permission, the consignee shall remove and dispose of the package in accordance with the general or special instructions which may be issued by the local authorities, Governmental and/or Municipal in this behalf.
Previously, in order 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 was required to process the application for the same.
But recently, as an unusual practice, 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 due to which 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.
-India Legal Bureau