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SC asks Centre to consider tweaking COVID-19 protocols for Parsi funerals

ANI | Updated: Jan 17, 2022 22:02 IST

New Delhi [India], January 17 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central government to consider tweaking the protocols for the disposal of dead bodies of COVID-19 victims to accommodate funeral rites for Parsi Zoroastrians as per their rituals.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant suggested that an informal virtual meeting of senior advocate Fali S Nariman and Central government officials and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta can take place and suggestions can be put across and protocols can be tweaked.
"The first meeting could be more of an icebreaker to see what are the essential concerns of the community. And then with a little bit of give-and-take,
we can resolve the issue in a very amicable manner. Then you can offer a tweaked protocol with track changes," the Bench said.
Meanwhile, in an affidavit filed by the Central government, it told the apex court that keeping the corpses exposed without burial or cremation will not be a permissible way of disposal of dead bodies of COVID-19 positive patients and maintained that appropriate handling of dead bodies of COVID-19 positive patients, therefore, remained critical from a public health perspective.
"The dead bodies of such infectious patients are likely to get exposed to environment and animals, if not buried or cremated properly. The OIE World Organization for Animal Health) has also observed that the people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus should minimise close direct contact with animals, including wildlife," the affidavit of Centre stated.
The virus introduction to a new animal species from a dead body might accelerate its evolution, which could potentially impact surveillance and control strategies, stated the affidavit.

Earlier, the apex court sought of assistance of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to find an amicable solution in resolving the grievances of the Parsi community, which is unable to perform the traditional burial of its members who died of COVID-19.

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for the Surat Parsi Panchayat Board, said the Parsi community is the only community in the country that has professional pallbearers.
The plea said the existing guidelines do not allow for burial as is done in the Parsi community.
The appeal was filed by the Surat Parsi Panchayat Board seeking a traditional burial for the members of the Parsi community who died of COVID-19. The appeal challenged a July 23 order of the Gujarat High Court which had dismissed the plea.
The appeal said that there is a community of corpse bearers among the Parsis and when someone dies, the family members do not touch the body and only the corpse bearers can do so.
General guidelines have been issued for the cremation and burial of COVID-19 victims, but there is nothing about the Parsi community, it added.
The Surat Parsi Panchayat Board had sought to protect the fundamental right to perform the last rites of the community members, who died of COVID-19, in accordance with the tradition of Dokhamanshini and not cremation, as has been directed by the authorities in view of the pandemic.
In the Dokhamanshini tradition, the body is kept at a height on a structure referred to as a well or the tower of silence, to be eaten by vultures, and the remains are left to decompose under the sun, it was stated in the plea. (ANI)