Afzal Guru: Why the mortal remains were not returned

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The Afzal Guru issue does not seem to die down. One of the main reasons why his execution was delayed is because the government had felt that this may lead to problems in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is almost two years now since Afzal Guru was hanged to death at the Tihar jail, but in some way or the other the issue seems to crop up. The latest being a demand made by some leaders in the Valley who have asked for his mortal remains to be returned.


Why was Guru's mortal remains not returned?

There are several rules that state that the returning of the mortal remains of a death row prisoner is entirely at the discretion of the jail authorities who shall consult with the government.

Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in connection with the Parliament attack case and his convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court. His mercy petition too had been rejected by the President of India.

Normally the mortal remains of a death row convict is returned to the family.

However, in such cases which are politically charged, the mortal remains are normally not returned as the government fears that it could turn out to be a shrine for militants. This was one of the reasons why the US authorities declared that Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea.

The rules relating to claiming a body of a death row convict:

After the hanging of Afzal Guru, his family had refused to visit Tihar Jail to perform the last rites. They demanded that the body be handed over. The rules however state that the family has a right to seek the body of the deceased, provided they adhere to certain clauses.

The Model Prison Manual for the Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India under Clause 11.67 which deals with Disposal of Body states: " If the executed prisoner's relatives make a written application for performing the last rites, the Superintendent may, in his discretion, allow such request, provided that the relatives give an undertaking in writing that they will not make a public demonstration at cremation / burial.

If the superintendent feels there is a possibility of a public demonstration, he has the right to refuse such permission.
In cases of disposal of the body of executed prisoner,in whose case there is likelihood of public demonstration, the superintendent shall consult the district magistrate and arrangements for the disposal of the body shall be made according the requirements of the situation.

In such event, thesuperintendent shall act in accordance with the instructions of the district magistrate.

Taking the body out of jail:

Clause 11.68 states that the body of the executed prisoner shall be taken out of the prison with all solemnity. A municipal hearse or ambulance shall be used for the transportation of the body to the cremation / burial ground. The superintendent is authorized to incur all reasonable expenditure required for the transportation and disposal of the dead body.

Rule of communication:

There was a debate over whether the jail authorities had informed Afzal Guru's family about the last rites. While the jail authorities had claimed that they had done so, the family argued that the same was communicated after the last rites were conducted.

While communicating to a family about the last rites, the jail authorities would have to send a letter. The words ‘Death sentence' shall be inserted before the address.

Telephonic orders regarding prisoners shall be got confirmed by telephoning back to the concerned authority.

A distinctive red envelop with the words ‘Death Sentence' and ‘Immediate' marked on the top left and right hand corners respectively, shall be used in death sentence cases by the jail authorities.

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