HC upset over non-disposal of COVID-19 victims’ bodies

New Delhi:¬†Expressing its dissatisfaction over the current state of affairs, the Delhi High Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance regarding the backlog in disposing bodies of COVID-19 victims owing to non-functioning of CNG furnaces at the crematoriums in Delhi’s Nigambodh Ghat and Punjabi Bagh, and said that the same is “violative of the rights of the dead”.

Expressing displeasure and anger while taking note of the situation, the court said, “We, as citizens of Delhi are pained at the aforesaid state of affairs and as judges find the situation as reported and if true, to be highly dissatisfactory and violative of the rights of the dead.”

Noting that inside the COVID-19 mortuary of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi, there are 108 bodies; all 80 storage racks are full and there are 28 bodies on the floor, piled on top of each other, the court asked Delhi Government Standing Counsel Ramesh Singh and the legal counsels of various Municipal Corporations in the national capital to take instructions and present the facts before it.

The court has now listed the matter for hearing on Friday.

“A copy of this order be also forwarded to Mr Ramesh Singh Senior Standing Counsel Government of NCT of Delhi as well as to the Standing Counsels of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation, who are entrusted of various cremation and burial grounds in Delhi, to enable them to obtain instructions and present the facts before this court,” a division bench of the court.

The bench also noted that LNJP is the largest dedicated COVID-19 hospital in the city and its mortuary is the repository of bodies of those who died of the coronavirus disease or are suspected to have died of it and on Tuesday (May 26), eight bodies were returned from Nigambodh Ghat, CNG crematorium because the facility was not in a position to accept more bodies, as only two of the six furnaces were working.

The court has observed that there is unrest at the Nigambodh Ghat and the staff and priests working there have stopped functioning.

“Owing to the CNG furnaces not functioning, wood-based cremation, which earlier was not deemed safe, has been permitted; inspite of the same being permitted, the personnel operating the said crematoriums are refusing to take part in wood-based cremations,” it noted.

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