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SC approves agreement between Centre and Parsi Board over Funeral Rites of Parsi Covid Victims

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Parsi Tower of Silence Law Insider

Mitali Palnitkar

Published On: February 05, 2022 at 17:23 IST 

On February 4, 2022, the Supreme Court directed to place iron rods and grills above Towers of Silence across India, so that no bird could feed on the bodies and carry Covid strains. This was directed in view of agreement between Surat Parsi Panchayat Board and the Centre over the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for disposing the bodies of those of Zoroastrian faith and had died during the Covid pandemic.

On January 17, the Supreme Court had requested Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for the Petitioners and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to confer with the Union Health Ministry Officials for balancing religious sentiments and health concerns in relation to the last rites of Parsi Zoroastrians who died during the pandemic.

The Bench comprised of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant. It was hearing a Plea filed by Surat Parsi Panchayat Board for directing to permit its members to perform last rites of its members who died due to Covid, as per their religious practices.

The Plea was against the Gujarat High Court Judgment of July 2021 which had dismissed the Petitioner’s Plea and declared the ‘Covid-19 Guidelines on Dead Body Management’ issued by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as Ultra Vires Articles 14, 19, 21, 25, 26, and 29 of the Constitution.

In December 2021, Mr Nariman had argued that the guidelines did not mention any other mode of disposal besides cremation and burial.

On January 11, the Court had directed Senior Advocate Nariman to submit a written note on the manner in which the final rites of Parsi Zoroastrians who died of Covid-19 would be carried out. The Solicitor General was also requested to render assistance by evaluating the proposed guidelines.

On February 4, 2022, a protocol and SOP were decided between the Petitioner and the Centre. After the perusal of the SOP, the Bench stated that the Judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court would be set aside and the Writ Petition was to be governed in terms of the agreed statement, that had been placed on record in the Proceedings.

Also Read: Right to Dignified Burial