The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea raising issues of alleged overcharging for cremations, burials as also 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.
The plea, which had referred to the reports about several bodies found floating in the river Ganga during the pandemic, came up for hearing before a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta.
The bench said the petitioner, a Delhi-based NGO trust, has referred in the plea about recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the issue.
The apex court said that petitioner can approach the NHRC. The plea, filed through advocate Jose Abraham, had said the Centre should be directed to advise all the states and Union Territories to frame guidelines prescribing rates for cremation or burial of those who have died due to the 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, it said. 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 said. It also said that NHRC had issued an advisory last month for upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead.
The plea had 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 had referred to earlier verdicts of the apex court which had said that dignity of the dead must be maintained and respected.
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