NEW DELHI: A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court raising the issue of alleged overcharging for cremations and ambulance services during the COVID-19 pandemic and seeking a direction to the Centre to consider formulating a policy to protect the rights of the dead.
Referring to reports about several bodies found floating in the river Ganga, the plea said the Centre should be directed to advise all states and Union Territories (UTs) to frame guidelines prescribing rates for cremation or burial of those who have died due to the deadly virus and also for ambulance services along with penal actions for non-compliance at the earliest.
“It is deeply depressing to see people putting bodies of their beloved ones in rivers like Ganga due to lack of money,” said the plea, filed by NGO Distress Management Collective through advocate Jose Abraham.
“It is primarily due to exorbitant amounts asked for cremation and ambulance services that scores of people decided to put the bodies of their beloved in the river Ganga,” it claimed.
It said that the National Human Rights Commission issued an advisory recently for upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead.
The plea alleged that no cogent action has been taken by the authority to tackle the issue of “undue profiteering by unscrupulous caretakers at crematoriums because of which many are unable to cremate or bury their beloved.”
It referred to earlier verdicts of the apex court which had said that the dignity of the dead must be maintained and respected.
“There is a dire need to enact a specific legislation that protects the rights of the dead, and there is also a need for issuance of guidelines to all states and UTs to prescribe rates for cremations and ambulance services along with penal actions for non-compliance at the earliest,” it said.
It said the petitioner had earlier approached the Delhi High Court raising the issues of overcharging for cremations and ambulance services in the national capital.
It said the high court had on May 6 given liberty to the petitioner to approach appropriate representation to the municipal corporations concerned and the civic bodies were asked to decide it in accordance with the law.
The petitioner NGO alleged that it had submitted a representation to all the municipal corporations on May 11 but none of them have even acknowledged its receipt so far.
The plea said the petitioner had also sent a representation to the Centre with a request to take urgent steps to enact a law that ensures the dignity of the dead along with guidelines to the states and UTs to control exorbitant charges for cremation and ambulance services.