The Gujarat high court on Friday heard the petition filed by a Parsi religious body and reserved its order on the demand to permit them to dispose of the bodies of those who died of Covid-19 according to their religious tradition and not to force them to cremate the bodies.
The Surat Parsi Panchayat Board had filed the petition saying the central guidelines to dispose of bodies in case of Covid-19 death is silent on the Zoroastrian tradition of disposal of body and recognizes only two modes of disposal – burial and cremation. It sought directions to the authorities to permit Parsis to follow their tradition of leaving the body at the Tower of Silence, Dokhmenashini. The court said a plea was filed at a belated stage since guidelines were issued more than a year ago, and case has only academic importance.
The petitioner’s counsel, Asim Pandya, submitted that there is no scientific data presented by the government to prohibit the Parsi community from carrying out Dokhmenashini. The Centre has not opposed the demand and the local authorities claimed that they are following the guidelines only. The state government is silent on the issue.
Pandya also submitted that Parsis are such a miniscule minority that their religious practice of disposal was not taken into consideration while preparing guidelines. He argued that only a law can stop people from practising religious rituals and the guidelines are not a law.
Senior advocate Percy Kavina, who was present at the hearing, interjected that for 7-8 decades, the Parsi community has started burying bodies at many places across India. He said it is not anathema or sacrilegious, if bodies are buried. To this the petitioner’s advocate submitted that liberal people may take liberty, but this is an individual’s choice . The judges commented that the present pandemic was novel and there is no question of individual’s perception.