Observing that while maintaining the dignity of the dead was important, the Bombay high court (HC) said that the authorities should also ensure the safety of those conducting the last rites of Covid-19 patients as well as residents living around the crematoriums. The court made the observations while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), raising concerns over the lack of safety precautions at Shivaji Park, Chandanwadi and Sion crematoriums, which have been receiving many bodies of Covid-19 patients every day for cremation.
The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice NJ Jamadar, while hearing the PIL filed by activist Ketan Tiroodkar through video conferencing, was informed by advocate Aparna Vhatkar that there were serious lapses in the disposal of dead bodies, as a result of which the crematoriums were getting crowded, causing problems to the residents in the neighbourhood. Vhatkar further submitted that the staff of these crematoriums were not provided with safety gears such as personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, masks, sanitizers etc.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), through senior counsel Anil Sakhare, however, refuted the claims and said that the civic body was following the World Health Organization (WHO) and central government’s guidelines for the safe disposal of the bodies of Covid-19 victims.
“The staff, driver and the attendant transporting bodies from the hospital concerned to the crematorium are provided with safety gears, and undergo regular thermal screening, and their throat swabs are also taken for Covid-19 tests,” Sakhare submitted.
He further said that the bodies of Covid-19 victims were disposed of only in electric crematoriums, and only 20 bodies were permitted to be disposed of in one crematorium per day. He added that the cremation of unclaimed bodies is being conducted by the police station staffers. Cremation of the bodies of people who died due to other reasons was also being carried out simultaneously.
After hearing the submissions, the court noted that as the authorities were scrupulously following the guidelines laid down for management and the safe disposal of dead bodies of Covid-19 victims, there was no need for the court to interfere.
“The BMC and all other authorities shall continue adhering to the guidelines so that dignity of all citizens is preserved and no citizen is put to any unnecessary risks,” the court said.