According to Black’s Law dictionary fundamental rights are defined as “A significant component of liberty, encroachments of which are rigorously tested by courts to ascertain the soundness of purported governmental justifications” or “A right derived from natural or fundamental law.”
In a video people have been seen dumping dead body of covid-19 patient in the river even after the Central authorities have ordered states to ensure that dead bodies are not disposed of in rivers, the bigger question is that does a deceased have a right to be cremated or buried with dignity.
Hon’ble Supreme Court on March 09, 2018 in a landmark judgement declared that the right to die with dignity to be considered as a fundamental right and passed an order allowing End of Life Care (EOLC), passive euthanasia in common parlance, in the country. Justice D Y Chandrachud, a member of the five-judge bench of the apex court headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said, “Life and death are inseparable. Every moment our bodies undergo change… life is not disconnected from death. Dying is a part of the process of living.”
Seeing that the crucial right to life ensured under the Constitution incorporates the option to the right to decent burial or cremation, the Madras High Court cautioned neighborhood occupants against mentioning criticisms regarding the removal of the collections of the individuals who had kicked the bucket because of COVID-19.
“At the first sight gives the idea that as a result of the above said affirmed acts, an individual who rehearsed a respectable calling as a specialist, and inhaled his last, has been denied of his entitlement to have a cremation in a burial ground reserved for that reason,”
Furthermore, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had also issued guidelines on March 16, 2020 with respect to the management of bodies of those who die due to COVID-19. Those guidelines require strict adherence to infection prevention control practices.
As per those guidelines require, the body to be secured in a body bag, the exterior of which should be decontaminated. “Environmental cleaning and disinfection of surfaces is to be done with one per cent Sodium Hypochlorite solution. Autopsy should be avoided and embalming should not be allowed.
Our Hon’ble courts have time and again mentioned the rights of a deceased person.
In Pt. Parmanand Katara, Advocate v. Union of India & Anr. (1995) 3 SCC 248, Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the right to dignity is available not only to a living man but also to his body after his death..
In Vikash Chandra @ Guddu Baba v. The Union of India & Ors.: 2008 SCC OnLine Pat 905; (2008) 2 PLJR 127, The Hon’ble Patna High Court held that it is expected from the Hospital Staff and State Officials that disposal of unclaimed and unidentified dead bodies would be done in accordance with the law with the utmost respect to the deceased and in case it is verifiable, the last rites should be in accordance with the known faith of the deceased.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court again in the case of Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India & Ors: (2002) 2 SCC 27, held that the dead body of a homeless person who died on the street is entitled to a decent burial according to the religious faith to which he belonged. Similarly, the Madras High Court in S. Sethu Raja v. The Chief Secretary [WP(MD) No.1. 3888 of 2007], said that with our tradition and culture the same human dignity (if not more), with which a living human being is expected to be treated should also be extended to a person who is dead.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Common Cause v. Union of India: 2018 SCC OnLine SC 208 in a Constitution Bench observed that while adverting to a situation of a dying man who is in a persistent vegetative state that:
The right to die with dignity is an inseparable and inextricable facet of the right to life with dignity. Right to die with dignity is a Fundamental Right and thus an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Further it can be concluded that the right to cremation or right to buried comes under right to life under Article 21 of Indian Constitution and every person is entitled to cremate or burry their family members with utmost dignity.