Ayesha Afrose and M. Anantha Pavithra, B. S. Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology
In this age of pervasiveness, not only life but also death has changed. Increasing deaths during Covid-19 have led to various omissions. The burial or cremation of the deceased is never the same during this epidemic, but the rights granted to the dead are micro and are not absolute in manner. This epidemic has brought not only the economic and health crisis to our country but also the crisis towards human faith in his last journey. A dead person gets various rights and treaties guaranteed by our constitution. Decent burial of dead bodies and crime committed towards them are two main elements the legal guidelines are made upon. With India’s battle against COVID-19, failure to function the last rites and appropriate handling of dead bodies are disastrous consequences with widespread cases. Lakhs of death could merely overwhelm the beliefs of Indian citizens. Hence the World Health Organisation lately stated that the “future of the pandemic depends on how India handles it”. Here, we have summarized the current situation of the increasing death in the pandemic and myriad breach of their rights.
Right to a decent burial, Right of the dead, Stigmatize, Funeral rites, Breach.
Dignity in death is recognized around the world. Burial or cremation of dead bodies during Covid-19 is not an easy trial. Hygiene protocols such as wrapping dead bodies in a plastic bag for infectious diseases were issued, recognizing the reason why bodies were not handed over to their families because the virus could be spread to others through body fluids. In India, burial practices differ from religion and belief. Several cases have been reported against the authorities for not allowing the corpse to be cremated and for being ‘mishandled’. The rights and traditions of a man after death are represented by many writers.
Pooja Praja Jaiswal wrote in The Week that “Mumbai’s Covid-19victims have no dignity even in death”: “A 53-year-old woman desperately sought an ambulance in the last week of May to find her husband’s dead body, a suspected COVID-19 patient, ten before reaching the grave. He was home for hours. Since this is a suspicious COVID-19 case, no Christian grave is willing to take his body.”
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to human rights even after death. It is noteworthy that Covid-19 victims are denied their rights to the validity of death.
In his book “The Burial Dead” by William Henry Francis Psevi, he noted that “throughout history, cultures that have no other rites have treated the dead with reverence.” The concept of respect is so entrenched that we even agree to gently handle the bodies of our enemies.
Loops explained death, “The state of death is the state not caused by the degree of death”.
In the book “Literature and the Right to Death” by Maurice Blanchett, he wrote, “As long as I live, I am a human being, but when I die, I cease to be human by stopping being that human being. I am no longer capable of dying, and my impending death frightens me.” Because I see it: no more death, but the impossibility of dying.”
But an important legal aspect is, is it illegal to deny one’s last rites? Or does the deceased lose their right by dying? SARS-CoV-2 has led to many glorious results in man.
Honouring the dead:
In India, decent burial and cremation of the corpse where the laws are made. The Geneva Convention of 1949 contains an important note stating that “as long as military consultation permits, such a party to the conflict will support measures to protect those killed.”
In India, there are rights and solutions under the Constitution of India and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Under the Constitution of India:
The Constitution of India is a document that describes the rights and duties of a living person. Article 21 of the Constitution includes several laws, including the Right to a decent burial. As a living human being the dead also has a right to human dignity. This view was first recognized by the Supreme Court case Parmanand Katara v. Union of India & others (1989 AIR 2039, 1989 SCR (3) 997) in public interest litigation filed by an attorney. In case Ashray Chief Abhiyan v. The Union of India (2002 WCP 143 of 2001) states that a good burial is the right of a state according to the culture and religious beliefs of the deceased.
Under the Indian Penal Code:
The right to decent burial comes under the Indian Penal Code. But the authorized person of decent burial is nowhere mentioned in the law.
Section 297: This section punishes a person who violates burial places or harasses persons gathered for funerals under this section. The purpose of section 21 includes the right to a good burial, the court highlighted this part of the IPC.
Section 404: This section refers to the dishonest misappropriation of the property of a deceased person, which is a serious form of an offense under Section 403 of the IPC. In the case of Balamunishi Boy v. others Where a person is removed from the body of a deceased person, he will not be punished under Section 403 because a dead body is not a person and therefore cannot hold property, the court said.
Section 499: This section deals with defamation and defines defamation or libel against a deceased person, contributing to the crime of libel. Mrs. Pat Sharp v. Dwijendra Nath Bose (1958 Cri. L.J. 902), the court said that even if Netaji was dead, it would be defamatory because the indictment should have been saying.
Section 503: This section deals with criminal intimidation, which accuses a person of threatening to injure a rejecting a deceased person. Therefore, the government is responsible for maintaining and disposing of the body that is unsafe for other organisms. The unclaimed dead body should be claimed by the government and their right to a decent burial should be added.
The motion of international law:
Many international treaties and laws deal with the rights of the dead.
The UK Military Guide 1958 states, the dead must be protected from persecution.
At the 1949 Geneva Convention of Section 16, action would be taken to protect those killed from mistreatment until the military concept allowed each side to confront.
In Iraq, the dead are buried on the same day as possible. Some burials have delays of approximately 6 to 8 days. In this contagious situation, public meetings of mourning are no longer allowed.
Farewells to the dead in Pakistan, Ireland, and Turkey have been conducted by remote burial. Persons involved in the body will only be allowed in the body washing rituals before burial.
In China, the families of the deceased have not been able to pick up the cremated ashes for more than 2 months.
In the Philippines, a dead body must be cremated within 12 hours. If the deceased person is a Muslim, the body should be placed in a sealed bag and buried within 12 hours in a nearby Muslim cemetery according to Muslim rites.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights 2005 states that the resolution on human rights and forensic science underscores the importance of dealing with human remains and the disposal of proper management, including respect for the needs of families.
Breach of deceased rights:
The legal status of dead bodies is generally unclear during the Covid-19 period, i.e. it should be treated with dignity and respect by the state. Abhiyan v. Union of India (AIR 2002 SC 554), the Supreme Court ruled that the death of an unidentified person was the responsibility of the state to make a good burial. In the light of Covid-19, the Bombay High Court in the case of Pradeep Gandhi & Ars. v. State of Maharashtra & Others Special Leave Petition (Civil Diary No. 11081 of 2020), Has clearly emphasized that “the right to a decent burial is compatible with the privacy of the individual, which is recognized as an aspect of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
It is disastrous to note that the deceased has not been deprived of his / her entitlement during his / her lifetime, and at least a decent burial has not been initiated during the crisis. Even in the event of any natural disaster, the National Disaster Management Guidelines emphasize the disposal of dead bodies.
Recently, in the ‘Mishandling’ case of bodies dying due to Covid-19 at LNJP Hospital in Delhi, the Supreme Court criticized government hospitals and said that respect for treating Covid-19 patients was ‘horrible and pathetic’ and that they were “worse than animals”. Patients admitted to hospitals tested positive for Covit-19 have no proper follow-up, guidance and care.
The Supreme Court reiterated that dead bodies should be treated with dignity and respect according to their religion and culture. But at the current edge of Covid-19 patients in all government facilities, it has become a difficult task for the state to ensure that every dead body is treated with dignity as it is expected that there will only be more burden in controlling the epidemic. Various reports of misuse of corpses in various hospitals across India have rightly called for court intervention.
Funerals for Coronavirus victims have been a problem in many countries, including India. So, in theory, there are two main laws for a dead body 1. Removal of bodies and 2. Crime against them. In a country like India, the virus that causes SARS-Cov-2, Covid-19 is at its peak and the number of cases is 78,14,682 (as of 24th October 2020) and the death toll is 1,17,956. The novel Coronavirus kills 650 lives by extorting dead body within 24 hours, without giving a chance to the last rites of a loved one. In this situation, burial issues are tragic conditions for human beings, and their mere rights are denied. All living beings have their rights and solutions and so do the dead.
In the Supreme Court judgment of Pt. Parmanand Katara (Adv.) v. Union of India & Ann: (1995) (3 SCC 248), where the right to dignity is available not only to a living person but also to his body after his death. In addition to the various health measures and precautions introduced by the Government of India in this epidemic situation, Ramji Singh @ Mujeeb Bai v. UP & Ors: (2009 SCC Online AII 310 (2009) 5 AII LJ 376), The expression ‘person’ in Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes a dead person in a limited sense. If he were alive, he would have the right to dignity and respect for the dead body he possessed subject to his religion, tradition, and culture.
The dead bodies of the Coronavirus should be respected and they should not stigmatize their families, friends, and relatives to perform the funeral rites. Under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 no person can offend any person’s religious feelings or beliefs. In this crisis, we must pay our respects by fighting together against the Novel Coronavirus and by standing up for the rights of all those affected and passed during this pandemic.