Court allows next of kins of Covid deceased to perform last rites as per SOPs

Court allows next of kins of Covid deceased to perform last rites as per SOPs

Srinagar, June 10: The Jammu Kashmir High Court Thursday directed the government to allow the next of kins of any person dying due to Covid-19 to perform the last rites as per the Covid-19 guidelines on dead body management. The division bench of chief justice Pankaj Mithal and justice Vinod ChatterjiKoul while disposing of an application, expressed hope that the authorities will strictly abide by the Covid-19 guidelines on dead body management and “would not cause any harassment to the next of kins of any person dying due to Covid-19 in viewing the face of the deceased and in allowing them to perform the last rites in the manner laid down.”The court directed that the dead body has to be carried to the cremation or burial ground in a secured bag by the authorities for the performance of the last rites which shall ordinarily be in the presence of the relatives.The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Directorate General of Health Service (EMR Division), had issued Covid-19 guidelines on dead body management asking for standard precautions to be followed by health care workers while handling dead bodies of Covid patients, the manner of removal of the dead body from the isolation centre, handling of the dead body in Mortuary, transportation and cremation.It provides that an ordinary autopsy on Covid-19 dead bodies is not necessary and for special reason if it is to be performed, the procedure prescribed has to be followed.It further provides that the dead body should be secured in a body bag and its handling should follow standard precautions and the vehicle after transfer of the body to the cremation/ burial place be decontaminated with 1% Sodium Hypochlorite. “The cremation/ burial ground including the staff should be sanitised and the staff should take all standard precautions of hand hygiene, use of masks and gloves,” the guidelines says.The cremation/ burial is supposed to be in the presence of the close relatives and that the viewing of the face of the body by unzipping or opening the body bag is permissible so that the relatives may not only see the body for the last time but perform rituals such as reading from religious scriptures, sprinkling of holy water and other last rites that does not require touching of the body. “However, bathing, kissing, hugging of the dead body would not be allowed. Since the ashes do not pose any risk, they can be collected for performing any other rituals or the last rites,” it says.The court was also informed that a maximum of 20 relatives are permitted while performing last rites of the deceased.The court after going through the guidelines said, “We are of the opinion that the religious sentiments of the family members have been sufficiently taken care of by the government.”The court underscored that the MoHFW has framed the guidelines in consultation with the experts dealing with Covid-19 pandemic.”As such, if the guidelines do not permit handing over of the dead body specifically to the next of the kins and simply allow them to participate in the cremation/ burial and to perform the last rites that is more than sufficient otherwise it would be difficult to contain the spread of the disease,” the court pointed out.The court held that it is to be borne in mind that the larger public interest always prevails over personal rights and the traditions and customs have to yield to the national interest especially in these unprecedented times.The directions were passed in an application filed by Balvinder Singh through counsel Dinesh Singh Chauhan, seeking that as no post-mortem or autopsy is necessary on account of death due to Covid-19, the dead body should be handed over to the next of kins of the deceased, the face of the deceased be allowed to be seen by the relatives and they be permitted to perform rituals such as sprinkling of holy water etc before cremation.

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