SC rejects plea seeking formulation of national mortal remains management, disposal protocol

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea which had sought a direction to the Centre to formulate a national mortal remains management and disposal protocol for pandemic and non-pandemic times to be implemented across the country.

The plea was filed by a Delhi-based man who had said that body of his mother was mistaken for some other COVID-19 victim and was handed over to another person due to the negligence of a hospital here.

The petitioner said that he was denied the sacred right of doing the last rites of his mother, who was not a COVID-19 positive patient, due to the “callous action” of the hospital.

The plea came up for hearing before a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R S Reddy.

“You can intervene in the suo motu matter. You can file proper intervention application. These issues are being taken up in the suo motu PIL. Why should we hear a fresh petition,” the bench told advocate Manoj V George, who was appearing for the petitioner.

The top court had last year taken suo motu cognisance of reports of improper handling of COVID-19 patients and undignified disposal of victims' bodies in the country. The suo motu case is titled as ‘Proper Treatment of COVID-19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in Hospitals etc’.

George said this is not an “adversarial petition”.

“My (petitioner) mother’s body was swapped and I was denied the right of dignified burial to her. This can happen to anyone,” he told the bench, which dismissed the plea.

Petitioner G Manohar had sought directions to all the states to formulate a state mortal remains management and disposal protocol for pandemic and non-pandemic times within a reasonable period.

The plea had said that states should be directed to designate the district medical officer to be the appropriate authority for implementation of this protocol.

“The negligence of the respondent hospital is writ large inasmuch as to say that the respondent hospital was handing over a COVID-19 positive person's body to the petitioner all the while knowing that the petitioner’s mother had not died of COVID-19,” the plea said.

“With no safety protocols in place and no proper labelling or procedure for safekeeping of bodies, the respondent hospital negligently handed over the body of the petitioner’s mother to a complete stranger, leaving the petitioner high and dry and insisting that the petitioner take the other ‘body’ in complete disrespect to the memory of a human being,” it said. PTI MNL ABA ABA DV DV