A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre and four states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to take immediate steps to remove the bodies found floating in river Ganga amid the ongoing wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The petition, which referred to reports of bodies found floating in river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, urged the apex court to issue guidelines or formulate a standard operating procedure (SOP) for proper and dignified cremation or burial of bodies of victims of coronavirus as per the rituals. The plea, filed by Youth Bar Association of India, sought directions to the chief secretaries and district magistrates to ensure that no dead body is allowed to be thrown in any river on any ground and to take stern action against the culprits. It is the duty of the state to protect the rights of the deceased, which also includes the right to decent burial/cremation, said the plea, filed through advocate Manju Jetley.
It said the Ganga originates from Uttarakhand and flows down to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and floating of corpses in the river would cause environmental hazards and it is also in violation of the guidelines of National Mission for Clean Ganga. The plea said the authorities should be directed to take appropriate measures for ensuring removal of bodies from the Ganga and other rivers. It said the authorities concerned be directed to set up a 24×7 toll free helpline number in every district so that the deceased can be taken to the crematoriums on the request of family members.
The plea has also sought directions to the Centre and others to adhere to the last month’s recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on issues, including on handling of dead bodies. It also referred to earlier verdicts delivered by the apex court which had said that dignity of dead person must be maintained and respected. In the both natural and unnatural deaths, i.e., suicide, accident, homicide, etc it is the state which is vested with the duty to protect the rights of the deceased and to prevent the crime over the dead bodies, it said.
The plea alleged that the public authorities have failed to make concentric efforts in educating the masses and checking the immersion of half-burnt or unburnt dead bodies into the river Ganga.