Delhi Govt Extends Crematorium Hours for Disposing COVID-19 Bodies

A day after the Delhi High Court expressed anguish over the backlog in disposing COVID-19 bodies that has come up owing to non-functioning of CNG furnaces at the crematoriums in Delhi, the AAP government on Friday, 29 May, informed that it has extended the working hours of crematoriums.

Now instead of 9 am to 4 pm they will be open from 7 am to 10 pm. The Delhi government told the court that the LNJP hospital is being authorised to divert bodies to crematoriums at Panchkuian and Punjab Bagh, as opposed to only Nigambodh Ghat.

“Urgent steps were taken to remedy the situation like extending the working hours of the crematorium in order to clear the backlog,” said advocate Sanjoy Ghose appearing for the Delhi government.

The submissions came in while the court was hearing a matter relating to the lack of facilities to cremate those who died due to COVID-19 and the bodies piling up in the mortuaries.

A Division Bench of the high court comprising Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon took suo motu cognisance of the issue on Thursday and converted it into a Public Interest Litigation.

Authorised wood fired traditional cremations, in addition to electric and CNG furnaces have been allowed to function and PPE kits for all workers, as well as bodies have also been made available, the government told the court.

It further informed that 28 bodies were disposed of on 28 May, and by 30 May, the remaining 35 bodies will be disposed of. “Only those bodies will be retained back where post mortem/ investigations are to be carried out,” the government said.

‘Violative of the Rights of the Dead’

Following the submissions, the court asked the AAP government to file a status report by next date of hearing on 2 June.

Expressing displeasure and anger while taking note of the situation, the court on Thursday said, “We, as citizens of Delhi are pained at the aforesaid state of affairs and as judges find the situation as reported and if true, to be highly dissatisfactory and violative of the rights of the dead."

The bench had noted that LNJP is the largest dedicated COVID-19 hospital in the city and its mortuary is the repository of bodies of those who died of the coronavirus disease or are suspected to have died of it and on Tuesday (26 May) — eight bodies were returned from Nigambodh Ghat, CNG crematorium because the facility was not in a position to accept more bodies, as only two of the six furnaces were working.

It noted that inside the COVID-19 mortuary of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi, there were 108 bodies; all 80 storage racks were full and there were 28 bodies on the floor, piled on top of each other.

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