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Calcutta HC allows families of COVID-19 victims to perform last rites; Check guidelines

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Kolkata, Sep 17: The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed that bodies of Covid-19 patients shall be handed over to the family for cremation after completion of hospital formalities, provided post mortem of the dead body is not required.

Calcutta HC allows families of COVID-19 victims to perform last rites; Check guidelines

The right to live a dignified life extends up to the point of death including the dignified procedure of death, the HC said.

The petitioner, Vineet Ruia, had told the court that bodies of Covid-19 patients were being "disposed of by the administration unceremoniously and in an undignified manner without showing even a resemblance of respect to the mortal remains of the dead person", an HT reports said.

After hearing the plea, chief justice T B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee laid down the guidelines for the government to follow.

The guidelines are:

  • The bodies shall be handed over to the families only if post mortem examination is not required, the judges said.
  • The body shall go directly from the hospitals to the crematorium or burial ground and not to anywhere else including the home of the victim.
  • In case there is nobody to claim a body, it should be cremated or buried with dignity at the state expense.
  • People handling the body should wear gloves and masks and PPE suits if possible, and the same rules would apply to the staff at the crematorium or burial ground. The hearse has to be sanitised too.
  • The face-end of the body bag may be unzipped by the staff at the crematorium/burial ground to allow the relatives to see the body for the last time.
  • At that time, religious rituals, such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water, offering grains and such other last rites that do not require touching of the body should be allowed.

Passing the order on a PIL, the division bench directed that the government should prescribe additional reasonable measures as may be advised by medical experts.

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    There have been nine hearings since June 5. The Centre was represented by three lawyers while the West Bengal government was represented by advocate general Kishore Dutta and three lawyers.

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