Updated: July 23, 2021 10:36:45 pm
Dismissing a petition moved by Surat Parsi Panchayat Board seeking that Parsis be allowed to observe rituals of final rite for those dying due to Covid-19 and not be compelled to conduct either burial or cremation, the Gujarat High Court Friday observed that constitutional guarantee of freedom of practising religion is “subject to public order, morality and health.”
Noting that “safety and welfare of the state is the supreme law”, the bench of Justices Bela trivedi and Bhargav Karia also relied on Supreme Court’s suo motu proceedings with regard to the Kanwar Yatra to conclude that not allowing the Parsi ritual of final rites for Covid-19 patients “is not anathematic and sacrilegious to the religious practices being followed by the Parsis,” and neither would it be violative of Parsis’ fundamental rights, especially since cremation and burial as means of disposal of dead bodies by Parsis, “is also in vogue in all parts of the country…”
Parsis lay out their deceased in a secluded place known as Dakhmas (the tower of silence), to be eaten by vultures while the remains are exposed to the sun to be decomposed. The dead body management guidelines for Covid-19 as issued by the central government only lay down the protocol with regard to cremation and burial practices.
The court noted in its order, “Even the fundamental rights to profess, practice or propagate religion, and the right to manage religious affairs as enshrined in Articles 25 and 26 of Constitution of India are subject to public order, morality and health. The Supreme Court recently, in suo motu proceedings relating to holding of annual Kanwar yatra during Covid-19 pandemic has observed in an order dated 16.07.2021 that the health of the citizenry of India, and the right to life, are paramount.”
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