March 19, 2021 9:05:17 am
The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the Ministry of External Affairs to seek the cooperation of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi for returning the body of an Indian citizen — who was buried after his death in January in the Gulf nation despite being a Hindu and without his family’s consent. His wife has moved the court seeking exhumation and repatriation of the body.
Listing the case for March 24 for further monitoring, Justice Prathiba M Singh also said that a timeline should be obtained and communicated to the MEA.
The ministry had earlier told the court that they have written to the authorities in Saudi Arabia for exhumation of the body but a timeline cannot be provided as they are yet to get any response.
According to the petition filed by Anju Sharma, wife of Sanjeev Kumar, who had been working as a truck driver in Saudi Arabia for the past 23 years and died in January due to cardiac arrest, the body was kept in a hospital in Jizan and she was to complete formalities for repatriation. She completed the formalities on January 28 but was told on February 18 that the body has been buried due to a mistake in the translation of death certificate which identified his religion as “Muslim”.
However, MEA’s Director of Consular Passport, Visa Division, Vishnu Sharma, on Thursday told the court that the translation of the death certificate was done by Kumar’s employer but it is inconsequential as the authorities in Saudi Arabia were aware about his religion since Kumar was not buried in a Muslim cemetery. Sharma also said the Indian Consulate is usually informed about the death of an Indian citizen and a body is not buried unless an NOC is issued, but this time there was no such communication perhaps due to Covid-19 protocol.
The court was also told that the employer, Salem Abdullah Saad Al-Saqar, has deposited some compensation for the family of the deceased in the Indian Consulate Jeddah’s bank account and the cheque has been couriered to the district collector in Una, Himachal Pradesh, where Kumar’s family resides. The court in the order also directed the officials of Indian Consulate to contact the employer and confirm if any further payments are due to be made.