The Delhi government informed the High Court last week it would upgrade all mortuaries in government hospitals, after being rapped by the court for “disrespecting the dead”. The court took up the issue following news reports of rats eating a man’s body kept in the Sabzi Mandi Mortuary.
The deceased, had been a prisoner at Tihar jail, had died due to alleged “negligence” in treatment of tuberculosis contracted during custody. His family had filed a plea in July 2014 seeking compensation and action against authorities for the lack of proper treatment and absence of proper services in the mortuary.
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The court also pulled up government agencies because the post-mortem was not conducted for over three days after the man’s death. The PIL, as it stands, deals with both aspects — the treatment of prisoners at Tihar jail, as well as the handling of bodies in morgues. Later, the court took suo motu cognizance of the problems raised by advocate RP Luthra in the plea filed by the family, and issued notice to the state government, municipal authorities and Delhi Police. In August 2014, the court appointed advocate Saqib as amicus curiae to look into the matter.
Several reports have been filed by the amicus curiae and the concerned agencies, informing the court about the lack of cooling facilities for keeping bodies, lack of space in the mortuaries and the lack of coordination between the Tihar jail staff and hospitals for treatment of prisoners. In March, after several bodies were found dumped on the road outside the Sabzi Mandi mortuary, the bench rapped the government for claiming that Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, to which the Sabzi Mandi mortuary is attached, was supposed to be made into a “model hospital”.
In the latest report filed by the amicus curiae, the court was informed about the poor conditions at the mortuaries.