The Gujarat High Court has issued notice on a petition filed by Surat Parsi Panchayat Board seeking permission to perform Dokhmenashini, a customary practice among the Parsi community of putting the dead body in a tower of silence, even for those who succumb to Covid-19.
Article by Akshita Saxena | Live Law
The Petitioner, represented by Advocate Manan Bhatt, has stated that they have a fundamental right to perform the last rites of its community members in accordance with their religious practices and they cannot be forced to opt for burial or cremation.
It is submitted that presently, there is no law or notification which explicitly prohibits Dokhmenashini. However, the Central Guidelines on management of Covid-19 dead bodies prescribe only cremation and burial as the two modes of disposal, and it is completely silent on other religious practices.
“There is no evidence of corona virus being spread through dead body. Therefore, there is no reason to deny the decent funeral to the petitioners’ members.
By not allowing the petitioners to follow their religious mandate, the fundamental rights as protected under Articles 14,19,21,25,26 and 29 are being violated without any reason, whatsoever,” the plea states.
It is argued that there is no scientific proof available that a dead body can transmit Covid 19. On the contrary the research shows that it is transmitted through living being only.
The matter is fixed for consideration on May 27.
As per the petition:
Dokhmenashini is a religious practice among the Parsi community wherein the dead body is kept at a height in a structure referred to as “well/tower of silence” to be eaten by vultures and the remains being exposed to Sun to be decomposed. The well is situated at secluded place and only accessible to “nasheshalars” who handle the dead body and place it in the well.
Alternative method of disposal of dead body through cremation is said to be against the faith and religious ethos of Parsi Community as they consider ‘Fire’ as an agent of purity, whereas the dead body is considered to be impure.
Similarly, burial is not possible for the reason that there is no burial ground allocated to Parsi Ground and furthermore, burial is considered by Parsis to be as sinful as cremation, since it pollutes the ground and surrounding.