Bombay HC: Death is Greatest Equalizer, State Bound to Provide Adequate Facilities for Burial & Cremation Without Discrimination

Bombay High court Law Insider

Bhuvana Marni

Published on: November 1, 2022 at 21:20 IST

The Bombay High Court ordered the Public Works Department, the Margao Municipal Council, and the Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA) to build a burial ground for the Muslim community in the Sonsodo neighbourhood within six months.

The property was purchased to build the Kabristan 11 years ago, but there has been no progress in the development and construction of the Kabristan since then, according to the PIL that led to the passing of this decision.

The Goa division bench of Justice Mahesh Sonak and Justice Bharat Deshpande said that the authorities must provide the public with cemeteries, burial grounds, electrical crematoriums, etc.

“There is a duty cast upon the local authorities and the State to provide reasonable facilities for the burial and cremation of the departed. These are primary duties. These are essential duties. These duties cannot be delayed or denied.”

“At least in discharging these duties, there ought to be no red tape or sustained inaction. In particular, there ought to be not even a hint of discrimination”, the court held.

A PIL regarding Goa’s shortage of crematoria, cemeteries, and burial grounds was filed by Muzaffar Manzoor Kadri.

A burial ground was allotted to Margao’s Muslim community several years ago. This space is no longer sufficient despite being in use for at least 50 years.

As a result, the Goa State Legislative Assembly approved a resolution in 1999 calling for the allotment of enough land to address the community’s burial issues.

To build a kabristan, the MMC acquired about 31100 square metres of land in Sonsodo, Margao, Goa in 2012. But up to now, no kabristan has been provided.

Although the project had made significant progress on paper, the court emphasised that if actual execution must begin, various obstacles always appear from one quarter or the other.

The court stated that there are legal limitations on the burial or cremation of the deceased in places other than those designated by the authorities for this purpose. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the state and local authorities to offer adequate facilities for burial and cremation.

The court remarked that death is the greatest equalizer and it levels all distinctions. “There is a failure of Legal and Constitutional duty in not providing a Kabrastan after the completion of the acquisition process at Sonsodo almost 11 years ago”, added the court.

The court cited the Apex Court’s decision in PT Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India and noted that Article 21 of the Constitution, which mandates that both living and dead persons get fair and dignified treatment, also imposes a proper and dignified treatment.

The National Human Rights Commission’s advisory, which instructs local governments and administration to make sure that crematoriums, burial grounds, and electric crematoriums are in good functioning order, was cited by the court.

On November 5, 2021, the MMC voted to terminate the construction work order in favour of a private construction company and decided that the GSUDA would handle the site’s burial ground construction.

No legal obstacles were preventing the construction of kabristan at the site as of August 3, 2022, according to MMC representations made before the court on several occasions.

However, the MMC informed the court on September 8, 2022, that it would not abide by the ruling to hand over the works to GSUDA and would find a new site. Due to a communication from the South Goa Planning and Development Authority, this occurred.

In his affidavit, the Member Secretary of the SGPDA stated that the MMC misinterpreted the land’s ability to be utilized as a burial site, except for a small portion.

The court ruled that the Kabristan’s construction could not be delayed any longer because of red tape or other extraneous considerations.

On the newly acquired site in Sonsodo, the court ordered the PWD and the GSUDA to build a complete kabristan within six months. The MMC was directed by the court to work with the PWD and the GSUDA.

The court ruled that the PWD and the GSUDA should proceed with the construction even if MMC refuses to cooperate.

The GSUDA and the PWD were directed by the court to provide a compliance affidavit by November 29, 2022, detailing the site’s development.

The court further directed the Member Secretary of SGPDA to name those persons responsible if development on the site does not begin or progress by November 28, 2022.

The court ruled that if the development of the Kabristan is not finished within six months, the managing director of GSUDA, the chief officer of MMC, and the relevant superintending engineer of PWD would each be held personally responsible.

Case Title – Muzaffar Manzoor Kadri vs. State Govt. of Goa and Ors.

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