NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Manipur government to ensure burial or cremation of all corpses, lying in mortuaries, including 88 bodies identified but not claimed, while making it categorical that it will not allow attempts to keep the pot boiling over dead bodies.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for one of the petitioners, said, “We want to know the details of the nine sites” identified by the government for the burial of bodies.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Manipur government, questioned Gonsalves, “who are we?”
He claimed that next of kin of the identified bodies are willing to claim them but civil society organisations are fomenting trouble.
Gonsalves said he was representing the next of kin.
Mehta said he was objecting to organisations with vested interest.
Upon this, a bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra observed that he cannot accept an obstructionist approach against the burial of bodies.
The bench said it will not allow attempts to “keep the pot boiling" over dead bodies.
The SC-appointed committee had reported that among 175 bodies in mortuaries, 169 were identified – 81 claimed, 88 identified but not claimed.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, for another petitioner, asked the bench to ensure that the bodies are buried with dignity as per the customary or religious practices and DNA samples of bodies should be stored as evidence in the criminal trials.
Mehta, however, asked the bench to direct the organisations not to interfere with the burial of the bodies.
The court pointed out that the dead bodies cannot remain in mortuaries for an indefinite period.
It directed that last rites can be performed by family members for identified and claimed bodies at any of the nine sites without any hindrance by any other parties.
While issuing a slew of directions, the bench said either the families can claim them or the state will go ahead as per the municipal law.
The court also said the state authorities will intimate the next of kin of the identified bodies, which have already been claimed, about the sites and this process should be completed on or before December 4.
With regard to the bodies which have been identified but not claimed, the bench asked the state administration to issue a communication to the next of kin on or before Monday intimating them that they are permitted to carry out the last rites together with requisite religious observances within a period of one week.
The bench allowed that state to carry out burial/cremation of unidentified bodies with due observance of religious rites.
The court said the Collector and the Superintendent of Police (SP) would be at liberty to take all appropriate steps for maintenance of law and order so as to ensure that the burial/cremation takes place in an orderly manner.
The bench said in the event that DNA samples have not been drawn at the stage when the autopsies were conducted, the state shall ensure drawing of such samples before the process of burial/cremation takes place.
The court also allowed the state government to issue a public notice indicating that if bodies, which are identified, are not claimed within a period of one week from the date of issuance of the notice, the state shall carry out the last rites.
The court scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 4, regarding the issues raised in the committee’s report about acceptance of ex-gratia to kin of the victims.
The apex court-appointed committee, in a report, said that the state NGOs are preventing cremation of 88 bodies preserved in Imphal mortuaries, and obstructing acceptance of ex-gratia by kin.